Training load, the optimisation of athletic performance and the physical demands of 3x3 Basketball were among the hot topics up for discussion during the fourth annual Basketball Sports Medicine Conference (BSMC) at the City of London Academy (CoLA) in Southwark, London on Friday.
This year’s event, which was entitled: ‘Maximisation of Youth Players’ Health and Physical Development,’ was open to physiotherapists, sports physicians and psychologists and sports scientists, as well as basketball and strength and conditioning coaches.
It duly attracted delegates from across the United Kingdom and even from overseas, who all came away having been furnished with an array of expertise, knowledge and wisdom from some of the foremost figures in the Sports Medicine and Science fields.
After the obligatory welcome messages from CoLA and Basketball England (BE), the British Basketball Federation (BBF) and BE’s very own Head of Sports Science and Medicine Paul Fisher fittingly kicked off proceedings with a presentation on the epidemiology of injuries in basketball.
“I hope my presentation on epidemiology managed to convey the fairly high prevalence of injury rates within basketball,” Fisher commented.
“Those injury rates are pretty steady across the age groups, although probably a little bit higher in professional basketball, which is most likely related to fatigue and the intensity of game play.
“It also highlighted the effectiveness of injury prevention programmes, particularly around the ankle, and I’d like to think that that will encourage practitioners to implement those prevention programmes and help reduce injuries.”
Fisher was followed onto the stage by Dr Tim Gabbett (below), a world-leading voice in training load, and his first of two talks on the day itself focused on the current state of research on that particular subject in young athletes.
“We don’t need to be scared of training load,” Gabbett said. “It tends to get a bit of a bad rap as the bad guy when injuries come around, but – when you apply it appropriately and build high chronic loads – training load actually protects us against injuries.
“The main thing is that we want to get to those high loads as safely as possible. When we spike our workloads and ask our players to do more than what they’re prepared to do, that’s when we put them at risk of getting injured. But, training load itself is actually really good for athletes and helps them perform and stay injury-free.”
There were then successive seminars by the FIBA Medical Council on the governing body’s activities and research programme and Dr Ben Rosenblatt on the optimisation of performance in youth basketball – and sport in general – prior to the lunch interval.
Rosenblatt (above), who is widely regarded as one of the best strength and conditioning (S&C) coaches in the country, stated. “It’s really important that you’re clearly defining what performance is and what you’re trying to change.
“To optimise that performance-wise, you need to reverse-engineer it so you can say: ‘This is what I’m trying to change’ and then: ‘These are the steps I’m going to put in place’ and subsequently have a really consistent approach to solving those problems thereafter.”
“The principles of decision-making, and making training decisions, don’t change whether they’re a young – or an elite-level – athlete. It’s just that the context and the constraints are different.”
The day’s two keynote speakers, Gabbett and Rosenblatt, both featured in the afternoon sessions as well.
Gabbett gave a very informative and insightful perspective into the application of training load in youth basketball, while Rosenblatt’s ‘Road to Gold’ talk engagingly recounted his exciting experiences with the GB women’s hockey team as they won gold at the Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games last summer.
“We’ve got some work coming out at the moment and it’s actually along the lines of debunking the five big myths in relation to training load,” Gabbett commented.
“The myth that we’re breaking down all around the world is that training load – when it’s prescribed and applied appropriately – has huge benefits.
“We see so many injuries increasing every year across the board and, potentially, this could solve a lot of those problems. If we get the training load right, it could be a real game changer.”
Rosenblatt said: “I just felt very privileged to be a small part of their journey towards that (gold) medal.
“We created a culture that enabled us to deliver those types of performances when it mattered most.
“Everything we did was related to what the coaches and the athletes felt were important to them. It wasn’t me telling them what they felt was important. They told me and I responded to that.
“It was also about putting those decisions in their hands and making sure that they were the ones that were totally and utterly accountable for how hard they trained, how fast they ran and how well they ate and how good the conversations we had were to make sure the programme was right.
“That meant that they were fully autonomous. They could have done it without me and that gave them a lot of belief and confidence in themselves, which allowed them to go and produce the results when it counted.”
Those two presentations bookended an inaugural, FIBA-commissioned study on 3x3 basketball conducted by Aspetar, which was presented to the public for the very first time. The study examined the specific physical demands of 3x3 basketball, the differences to 5v5 basketball and – subsequently – the derived training recommendations.
“The 3x3 basketball study with Aspetar is extremely important to us,” FIBA’s Head of National Federations & Sport/Youth and Anti-Doping for Europe, Radmila Turner, explained.
“It’s a first-of-its-kind piece of research that has produced some very interesting findings and results. We felt that we needed to do this because federations are often confused in terms of what type of players should play 5v5 and 3x3. They wanted to use exactly the same players in many cases, which – in turn – caused calendar clashes in the various competitions.
“What we wanted to prove is that some players can play both formats (5v5 & 3x3), but there are specificities in this discipline (3x3). It’s just a different game in many ways. We wanted to gather evidence that can prove that and then, based on this research, we can assist the federations and tell them they should be working in both areas with different specialists. This is a start in that direction.”
Turner added: “We’ve seen here at the Basketball Sports Medicine Conference a very positive movement. This is the first time that we’ve been involved in an annual event such as this one, but we’re very satisfied now and really interested in doing things together in the future.”
The successful day of debate, discussion and dissemination was rounded off with a Q&A session, where all of the speakers took questions from the floor on a broad range of subjects and topics.
Basketball England’s Education and Satellite Clubs Manager Charlie Ford said: “This year’s Basketball Sports Medicine Conference has been the biggest and best of the four we’ve organised so far and we’re already excited to take that encouraging momentum into the fifth edition in 2018.
“I’d like to place on record our gratitude as an organisation to Ben Rosenblatt, Tim Gabbett and Paul (Fisher), as well as Aspetar, our official partners BASEM (the British Association of Sport and Exercise Medicine), CoLA Southwark and FIBA Europe for their involvement in – and support of – the 2017 Basketball Sports Medicine Conference (BSMC).
“I’m sure all of the delegates in attendance will have gained greatly from their invaluable expertise and knowledge when it comes to some of the most prominent, and problematic, issues in basketball – and sport – today.”