The Myth of Greg Oden's Injury-Proneness

Ah, that headline got your attention, didn't it?  Everyone knows that Greg Oden is injury-prone.  Every basketball fan on the planet knows that!  Right here at Blazersedge there have been dozens of Fanposts discussing the reasons for GO's condition and possible cures.  That's not to mention the hundreds of Fanposts bemoaning GO's injury-proneness, his consequential status as a "bust" (this at the age of 21, I believe it is), the possibilities of unloading this sack of damaged goods for any scraps available, etc., etc.  It's rumored that GO's injury-proneness is even responsible for the demise of Kevin Pritchard, the man who drafted him.  But what exactly is the basis for the near-universal assumption that GO is injury-prone?

Remember, "injury-proneness" suggests a PATTERN of injuries indicative of fragility, awkwardness, or plain old bad luck.   So let's see: as far as I know, GO was perfectly healthy during his AAU and high school years.  Then, in his freshman season @ Ohio State, GO broke his wrist.  Horrors!  OK, there WAS the knee injury that led to GO's microfracture surgery just prior to his rookie season.  But reportedly, that injury was a pencil-eraser-sized lesion to the articular cartilage--an injury that players generally play thru.  At the time, KP stated that performing the surgery was essentially a "preventative measure": to guarantee that the injury didn't deteriorate and cause serious problems up the line. 

Still, the fact that GO suffered the injury in the first place proves GO is injury-prone, right?  Well, maybe: if you buy the story that GO hurt himself jumping off his sofa.  But practically no one believes that.  It's far more likely that  the 19-year-old GO did something foolish--like getting drunk and falling down a flight of stairs, or getting carried away playing Dance Dance Revolution, or whatever.  We'll probably never know.  But I'd certainly consider that mysteriously-obtained, tiny cartilage lesion to be thin evidence of injury-proneness.

OK, then: surely GO's cracked patella in his belated rookie season shows he's brittle.  Remember?  Cory Maggette crashed into GO and GO's knee cracked while Maggette's was unscathed.  Hah: INJURY-PRONE!  Er, but then we learned later that Maggette had been wearing a metal knee brace on the knee that collided with GO's.  Hmm: gotta scratch that one too.

OK, OK: but SURELY last season's broken patella proves that GO is injury-prone.  He jumps and, with no contact, his patella comes apart in mid-air.  That's GOTTA be conclusive proof of injury-proneness, right?   Maybe.  But patellas DO sometimes break for no reason.  Just last season it happened to another #1 draft pick, Blake Griffin.  Besides, how confident are you that GO's "freakishly strong leg muscles" (to paraphrase trainer Jay Jensen) would have produced the torque necessary to rip that patella open if that same patella hadn't been cracked the previous season, and if the Blazers' training staff hadn't over-developed said leg muscles as part of his rehab from the microfracture procedure?  Maybe the Blazers have handled GO's health perfectly.  But there's plenty of room for doubt.

Another point: MOST centers are somewhat prone to suffering injuries because they're the last line of defense, squarely in the path of oncoming players (that is, if they're doing their jobs). If you've been paying attention, you'll notice that most of GO's basket-defending colleagues have also been in & out of rehab the past couple of years.  It goes with the territory.

To conclude, I think there's certainly evidence to suggest that GO may be injury-prone.  But at this point, I think there's also plenty of evidence to suggest that he's been the victim of a little bad luck and, quite possibly, some badly-botched medical and training support from the Portland Trailblazers' organization.  You know: the organization that can't shoot straight--the organization that's so dysfunctional that it can fire Penn & Pritchard--the duo largely responsible for taking the Blazers from a perennial lottery team alienated from its fanbase to a respected and feared up & coming NBA power. 

I fear that same dysfunctional organization is showing itself capable of an even more remarkable blunder: taking the ultimate gift--the one in a zillion opportunity to draft a can't-miss dominant NBA center--and blowing it.  That's MY concern going forward: not that GO is injury-prone, but that he's being set up by poor medical/ training practices to fail.  My own hunch is that if this Blazers' organization had drafted young Hakeem, Shaq, or Moses Malone, those centers would have been "injury-prone busts" too. 

Er, actually, the Blazers DID have Moses Malone didn't they?  Then they got rid of him.  OK, I realize I'm going overboard now.  For all of the current regime's failures, we can't blame that blunder on them.  Or can we?  Hmm...maybe karma is backwards-operational... (just kidding)

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