Oden, Physiology and Nutrition

Disclaimer: OK. This post is intended for a somewhat limited audience; specifically, those interested in health and nutrition; specifically, Mr. Oden's. Further, this post goes into a lot of detail.

I don't want to waste anyone's time, so if you are not interested in this kind of topic, please don't trouble yourself with this post. But if you are, feel free to read on, if you want. I am going to attempt to contribute to the working through of a critically important problem for Blazers, and Blazers fans; even if this problem is a bit obscure, and not often considered by even the most hardcore fans. Something tells me those associated with Greg's care and health have also given it inadequate consideration. Typing the following should be more than worth it, IMHO.

Aside from the current hot topics related to personnel, easily one of the biggest questions and concerns anyone in Blazer Nation could have is, "What the heck is up with Greg Oden??!" Answer this question productively enough, and all of a sudden a championship seems a lot more realistic to hope for.

I am going to suggest that the fundamental, "mysterious" issue with Greg Oden's body, assuming there is one (as opposed to a totally random, unrelated series of historic accidents, as is possible) is not that hard to pinpoint, in a very general sense.

I am so confident this theory should be considered, I don't care what your health, nutritional, scientific or medical credentials are. You could be the "foremost expert." Pretend I'm looking you in the eye as you read this.

I am going to reason from scratch to the conclusion, and attempt to be logically self contained; rather than reference external sources; or make unnecessarily obscure claims.

Full disclosure: I have a PhD in a clinical but nonmedical field (psychology). My only official qualification is a scientific and clinical mind. However, I have studied health and nutrition for 25 years, as a layperson, and have always been an athlete, so I have thought and read about the following issues quite often in the past..

Greg Oden has unfortunately suffered a series of injuries to bones or cartilage; injuries which have severely limited his athletic career so far.

In some cases, these injuries seem to have been brought about by some kind of weakness, as opposed to acute trauma., He tries to jump, he gets off the couch, or whatever; and BANG or POP! Owww! So much for that season.

This has been extremely frustrating for all concerned.

At the same time, besides calling him "bust", Oden trash talkers are obsesssed with calling him "old". Greg probably gets as many old jokes as any living human being on Planet Earth at the moment, and he is 22 or whatever. Admittedly, he does have a high number of wrinkles in his face for his age. This is a second unusual and obvious feature of Mr. Oden's physiology. A third is being very tall, of course.

Most recently in his injury history, Greg broke his kneecap. Yet his bone density (reportedly, according to the press) tests normal. Obviously, bone density has nothing to do with it then, not to mention that bone density has almost nothing to do with cartilege tissue. So we need to look elsewere for the culprit.

What I am going to suggest is that there is only one issue that extends underneath, and mostly accounts for, both his old looking countenance, and every single one of his injuries.

The most likely physiological issue is just a matter of simple logic to identify, if you think about the physiology. I will walk you all through it.

So a basic, logical, critical question for astute clinicians would be: So what, if anything, do skin, bone, and cartilage most have in common? These are all his areas of concern, right?

The answer has to be collagen and elastin.

Elastin is very closely related to collagen in terms of amino acids profile, and their various processes. If you have healthy collagen, you probably have healthy elastin. So for purposes of this discussion, I am going to lump them together under collagen.

As regards bone, most people think of it as composed of minerals like calcium, which roughly half of it is (my percentages might be off by 10 percent or so, but the simple point remains the same). The other half or so, however, is composed of collagen and elastin. Most people don't know this, not that they need to. The collagen and elastin makes your bones pliable,  "plastic", less brittle, and more resistant to injury.

This is why people sometimes compare bones to a "green stick", because of their flexibility and relative suppleness. Mineral content, on the other hand, gives bones their hardness and density.

Starting to go "Hmmmmm..." yet? Brittle kneecaps, anybody? Anyway...

But as regards skin, ligaments, tendons, and cartilage, collagen is even a much higher percentage of their mass. These tissues are pretty much just lumps of structured collagen, for the simple purposes of this discussion.

In skin, collagen and elastin structure is easily the most important factor in how old skin in fact looks (moreso than moisture, fat content, blood circulation, etc, on a basic, simplistic level.). In other words, if your skin is elasitc, and the collagen structure is tight and healthy, you simply won't have any wrinkles, other things being equal. As these structures deteriorate, wrinkles are the result.

So, what are the general odds of Greg's freakish injuries all happening the way they did? Low. And what are the odds of Greg having skin that  looks that old, at that age? Again, low.

But what are the odds of both conditions occuring together in some unlucky guy? Very, very low, all things being equal. We don't need to know the numbers to see the logic.

[Note: The following was edited 6/22 due to the generous critical replies of fellow posters, many of whom were thanked in the comment section. The edit was to more carefully avoid resembling "diagnosis", to avoid creating that confusion, consistent with my replies in the comment section. Pardon the distraction.]

But what if all things weren't equal? What if you had some kind of practical collagen issue, symptom, or condition?

I'm not suggesting Greg has some kind of clinical, collagen disease or disorder. Just as I do not mean a diagnosable clinical disease, I do not mean that any symptom Greg has is clinically serious enough to trigger the diagnosis of any medical disease; in the presence of other essential symptoms.

But Greg appears to have, say, a collagen related symptom of sorts. This is evidenced by injuries involving collagen structures in his wrist and knees. These structures have been bone, and cartilage. Some of these collagen structures have been primary, or fairly global because when a kneecap cracks in half without trauma, it is because either the elasticitly, suppleness, plasticity, pliability, resiliance -- qualities antithetical to brittleness -- of that kneecap is generally inadequate to whatever set of tasks it has been performing. These qualities are qualities collagen contributes to bodily structures, even bone. Something about that particular bone and cartilage led it to be lacking in collagenic resiliance.

Perhaps the resiliance of collagen structures could be taxed by stressors; say, of being extremely tall, being a professional athlete, having a poor diet, or any number of unknown risk factors and even lifestyle choices. We don't know the which, how, or why of these.

Maybe his collagen structures are being stressed, and slightly broken down with use, in the same way muscle breaks down when you do a set of curls; and his body is very busy rebuilding collagen structures. Maybe the rapid growth Greg's body experienced requires a lot of collagen for every growing tissue; and his body "went through" a lot of those amino acids.

If Greg did have a significant physiological issue, problem, or symptom involving collagen, one would think the probably of observing those events and traits would go up significantly. If your "collagen situation" was generally problematic in some way, you could be more at risk for weak skin, weak bones, weak ligaments, and/or weak cartilage.

Now I am talking in general physiological terms, rather than in terms of medical diagnoses. Any diagnosis issue is really on the level of detail, compared to the basic underlying physiology. So we don't need or want to address diagnosis. That is for physicians.

But there is a general process, or set of processes wherein collagen is synthesized, is built up into structures, is maintained, and breaks down. Somewhere in that chain of processes, in that particular bone and cartilage, Greg seems to have had an issue or problem happen.

Even if Greg's interesting wrinkles (sorry Greg if it is rude to talk impersonally about such details) didn't fit into this theory, or don't represent a real problem of any kind, which is quite possible; the logical conclusion would still be the same.

The logic is almost inescapable, right? Think about it. This theory is simple, physiologically sensible, and has some scientific power, in that it explains several outstanding issues at once. In science, any theory that enjoys those qualities is starting to become worthy to consider.

Now I am not going to pretend to know where in the "collagen process chain" Greg has had his issue, or where his symptom was, as constituted in that process. That is a question for further exploration, research, or testing.

But do we really need to know exactly where the issue is, beyond that it is with specific, bone and cartilege, collagen structures; to start to do something about his problem at a fundamental level?

Fortunately, no, we do not.

You can easily supplement collagen in your diet. The American favorite Jello gelatin is a weak source of collagen. But we can do much better, as it is possible to find pure bovine collagen supplements on the internet. This stuff is essentially extremely concentrated Jello gelatin.

Collagen is nothing but amino acids. Except these amino acids, in a certain ratio and profile, specialize in building skin, cartilage, bones, tendons, and ligaments; as opposed to muscle.

So all I am suggesting here is that in place of a muscle building amino acid supplement, which almost every athlete takes, Greg strongly considers substituting collagen building aminos, in some normal quantity, as if you were taking any other amino acid supplement (20 grams a day might be a typical dose for a casual athlete). that way you are primarily building bone, skin, and ligaments, etc., instead of muscle (How much more muscle does Greg need anyway?)

And you also can take antioxidants that specialize in the task of preserving collagen structures. these oxidants are known by two different names, either OPC's or pycnogenol, depending on that manufacturer. Vitamin C is also important in several collagen processes, and is an antioxidant.

Already we are starting to address several of the collagen processes at once.

How will Greg know this stuff is working? One preliminary sign of collagen repair might be that after a couple weeks or a month of supplementation, Greg's face will start to show fewer wrinkles. That would be a sign that his collagen structures were getting stronger. I would not be suprised if he observed this effect, if he tries all this.

He might also also gain some weight, or increased collagen mass, in various places. Most of your bodily organs are made of collagen too. These should be good pounds, however, as they are presumably making his "infrastructure" more solid, given his body is in fact choosing to convert those raw aminos into human structures.

This should also address any problem wherein Greg's muscles might be stronger than his bone or cartilage, in certain places. (Steroid abusers often have a similar problem, by the way, which is why they are so often injured.). You are giving your bones or cartilege equal "love" or support, to what you give your muscles.

But the real proof is being able to make it through a season without freak injuries.

Now one nice thing about collagen tissue is that once it is in place, it breaks down rather slowly, over many years. So once Greg achieves benefits, they should be lasting, and he can back off his regimen somewhat after reasonable time for the support and repair, perhaps a couple years (These "guidelines" are just to give people a vague idea of the degree of numbers we might be talking about, not to prescribe anything. That is for his nutritionists, physicians, etc). After that he might experience diminishing returns, unless his issue involved ongoing breakdown of existing collagen structures, such as in some stress scenario.It could well be that Greg's collagen structures needed ongoing nutritional support, given his lifestyle, or the relatively large amount of bone, cartilage, and/or other collagen structures, Greg has to maintain. Most of Greg's body parts require collagen synthesis/mintenance, and he is a big man.

So there you have it, Greg, Portland, Blazer trainers, Greg's doctors, Mike Conley Sr. (Greg's agent, who is supposedly in charge of finding out what is wrong with Greg's body, if anything.) I believe this is an obvious and helpful issue to focus on. Several things Greg is experiencing with his body make sense at once when taken to be a collagen issue.

This post attempted to precisely address the question all of you interested parties are pulling your hair out asking regarding Greg's basketball health. The logic of this is simple and straighforward. And I would think all this would absolutely have to be seriously considered, by anyone with expertise who thinks about it; and hopefully acted upon vigorously. Consider this post a call to action, a strong suggestion; and consider me Greg's informal advocate.

There is absolutely nothing to lose with this easy, safe, nutritional approach; and everything critically important to gain, potentially, in every relevant area.

For Greg's sake, I do hope someone with infuence listens. This post might represent the best chance of that happening, given that it may be hard to be taken seriously on this subject if your idea seemed to arise out of the blue. The article approach seemed the most appropriate forum for the idea.

All further suggestions in the spirit of helping Greg are welcome.

P.S. A highly abbreviated version of this argument was sent to the attention of Mr. Mike Conley Sr., a couple weeks ago. Mr. Conley has not responded, as of yet.

Log In Sign Up

Log In Sign Up

Please choose a new SB Nation username and password

As part of the new SB Nation launch, prior users will need to choose a permanent username, along with a new password.

Your username will be used to login to SB Nation going forward.

I already have a Vox Media account!

Verify Vox Media account

Please login to your Vox Media account. This account will be linked to your previously existing Eater account.

Please choose a new SB Nation username and password

As part of the new SB Nation launch, prior MT authors will need to choose a new username and password.

Your username will be used to login to SB Nation going forward.

Forgot password?

We'll email you a reset link.

If you signed up using a 3rd party account like Facebook or Twitter, please login with it instead.

Forgot password?

Try another email?

Almost done,

By becoming a registered user, you are also agreeing to our Terms and confirming that you have read our Privacy Policy.

Join Blazer's Edge

You must be a member of Blazer's Edge to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at Blazer's Edge. You should read them.

Join Blazer's Edge

You must be a member of Blazer's Edge to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at Blazer's Edge. You should read them.




Choose an available username to complete sign up.

In order to provide our users with a better overall experience, we ask for more information from Facebook when using it to login so that we can learn more about our audience and provide you with the best possible experience. We do not store specific user data and the sharing of it is not required to login with Facebook.