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LeBron James’ Elbow Injury: The Tip Of The Iceberg

Posted Apr 30 2010 1:09pm

King James is injured! Oh no!

But in the words of the Celtics Paul Pierce, “I figure this: LeBron with a bad elbow is still better than 95 percent of the league. So it doesn’t matter.”

Or does it? I agree it probably doesn’t matter to the Celtics, but I think it should to LeBron.

LeBron’s elbow injury might not really effect his performance on the court and he’ll probably still score 30 points, but that’s not what I’m worried about. I’m worried that LeBron might miss a very important message his body is trying to communicate with him. “It bothers me because I don’t know what it is,” LeBron said. And missing this important message might be the biggest mistake of his career. Let me explain.

Our bodies talk. (“bodies” meaning not our mouths but our 206 bones, 700+ muscles, 200+ joints, approximately 25 trillion cells, etc “talk”) They talk to us constantly, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The problem is they talk in a language that most of us don’t understand anymore. And this should be of huge concern for you and for LeBron.

The easiest form of language that our bodies use is visual. Let’s take a look at LeBron:

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What do you notice?

What else? Keep looking?

  • Did you notice he is loading (standing on) his right leg in the first 3 pictures?
  • Did you notice his feet are turned out in all the pictures?
  • Did you notice how his knees point out to the sides?
  • Did you notice how his hands are on his hips or in his pockets?

These are all messages his body is communicating (or at least trying to communicate) to him. But he’s not listening.

He did go get his elbow checked out by the medical doctors and he was listening to what they had to say…but they didn’t find anything on the MRI and X-ray. Since all tests came back negative, they told him it’s a “an elbow strain” and a “bruised olecranon.” And he’s gonna keep playing through the pain.

The problem with this is, I believe the body is smarter than the doctors are – and think the doctors are very well-educated, well-trained, and very smart – much smarter than I am! So, what is his body trying to tell him?

It’s all really quite simple and common sense (the following is his body talking):

  • “I’m off balance – this is not good. My right hip is more stable so I spend most of my time on it. This has caused elbow pain and will cause much worse pain (back, knee, hip, shoulder) in the near future if this issue is not addressed, not to mention it’s throwing off my game! Please take action to get back in balance.”
  • “I’ve lost the ability to flex and extend at the hips – this is not good. This has caused my feet and knees to turn out while standing, walking, and running and this over time will wear away the cartilage in the knees and hips and also lead to back issues. I cannot go on compensating this way without ill effects. Please take action to correct this dysfunction.”
  • “My shoulders have rounded forward and down so far that it is uncomfortable and fatiguing to stand upright without resting my hands on my hips or crossing my arms. My upper back is always begging for a break. Please address this shoulder position imbalance so I can once again feel strong and stand straight. Not only would it feel better but my jump shot would be more consistent and powerful.”

These postural imbalances that LeBron James is showing not only lead to pain but also to decreased performance. LeBron is by no means the only athlete to have imbalances such as these. Postural imbalances are the norm in professional sports and our society at large and that is why injuries are so common in athletics and why chronic pain is so prevalent in non-athletes. (we have written about many athletes and their injury problems over the years (including Greg Oden , Pete Sampras , Lance Armstrong ) and those athletes that have learned to listen to their bodies and take appropriate action and have recovered from chronic injury/pain and have lengthened their careers as well (including Jack Nicklaus – who wrote the forward to Pete Egoscue’s first book , Junior Seau , John Lynch , Trevor Hoffman , Brian Urlacher , UCLA volleyball team ).

Our posture is designed to look like this and if it doesn’t we are headed for trouble – injury, pain, limitation, loss of millions of dollars (well for LeBron at least) when his career prematurely ended because of injury. But our posture is correctable, and easily so. Muscles move bones and when you do specific e-cises designed to remind your muscles of their proper length and tension, your bones will follow, your posture returns to it’s design and injuries heal, pain goes away, and limitations disappear. Life becomes fun again – but only if we listen.


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