The NBA’s 2011-2012 lockout cut 16 of the 82 regularly scheduled games. This forced the NBA into a shortened and condensed schedule. Every team was forced to play at least one set of back-to-back-to-back games (three games in three nights) — with 11 teams playing two such sets. In a regular season of 82 games, no team is required to play more than a handful of back-to-back sets. Condensed schedules like this take a toll on players who aren’t used to such grueling physical demands of their bodies.
Antawn Jamison of the Los Angeles Lakers, who went through the 1999 lockout as well as the most recent one, said “[a] lot of these young guys look at the schedule like, ‘Yes we’re playing.’ They don’t understand,” said Jameson. “There are so many back-to-backs it’s unbelievable. We have to convey to the young guys to stay off your feet, go home and relax and don’t do anything because every day it’s going to be something.”
While this potential problem was widely discussed, NBA Commissioner David Stern refuted the worries over increased lockout-related injuries and cited stats that, per game, NBA injuries did not increase during the lockout-shortened season. However, the quality, or severity of the injuries, most certainly did. At least according to research from Doug VanDerwerken, a PhD student in statistics at Duke University. The number of injuries which resulted in a player being permanently out for more than one game doubled from 6% in 2010-2011 to 12% in 2011-2012.
Last season’s NBA playoffs might have been the boiling point for devastating injuries, Derrick Rose of the Chicago Bulls had his season cut short on a frightening ACL tear in his left knee. Just a few days later, the New York Knicks lost their best perimeter defender and rookie Iman Shumpert to the same injury.
Because of the shortened season, players were more likely to play through minor injuries to help their team win. In a full season, players err on the side of caution to nurse an injury or soreness that they could physically play through. Shumpert sprained his knee during the first game of the season on Christmas day against the Boston Celtics, an injury that usually takes several weeks to heal. Shumpert missed just four games, rushing back to a struggling Knicks team in need of defense. Injuries like this need time to heal properly, or the chance of reinjuring them is increased.
Furthermore, Players abandoned their typical preseason routines during the lockout while playing random pick-up games around the world—some even signing with teams in other countries.
Without going through the necessary preparations needed to endure an entire seasons worth of games and practices, players are more susceptible to both short and long-term injuries. Lockouts certainly play some role in this happening, whether or not it is acknowledged.