Fit For Life Features
Lakers Welcome Back Steve Blake
There is nothing more frustrating for an athlete than to be sidelined with an injury. That frustration is magnified when the injury is completely out of the player’s control. Such was the case with Steve Blake, the Lakers sixth man and leader off the bench.
Blake suffered an injury to the ribs in the Lakers 99-83 victory against the Phoenix Suns on January 10th. The injury was aggravated the very next night against the Utah Jazz. What was considered a day-to-day injury ended up costing Blake the next 13 games.
For most injuries, the rehab process can start right away. Steve Blake wasn’t so lucky.
“Depending on your injury, it’s all about what you can do while you’re injured. If you can continue to run or ride a bike to stay in shape while you heal, then that can really help,” Blake explained. “Unfortunately for myself, I couldn’t do anything for two weeks so it really took a lot of my conditioning away. It just made it a little more difficult to come back and be right on point.”
Blake was used to sitting on the bench for tip-off, but staying there the entire game was a new experience, one no athlete likes getting used to.
“It’s extremely hard. Like most guys, you want to do something. If your wrist hurts you can do some leg weights. If your ankle hurts you can still lift and work your upper body,” Blake said. “Unfortunately, my injury was right in the middle and they didn’t want me doing anything. It’s very tough to watch and not be able to participate at any capacity.”
The weeks passed and Blake was eventually able to begin his rehab activities. Blake explained that it’s important to be able to make progress everyday depending on the amount of pain a player is in in. He started with limiting himself to running on a treadmill, but was able to progress to running on the hardwood floor, and eventually was cleared to continue basketball related activities.
Blake had the benefit of receiving treatment from the Lakers’ legendary athletic trainer Gary Vitti and his staff.
“The key is to have a good trainer or doctor that can put you on a program. You need someone that knows how much you can do and at what weights to not push it too fast or too slow,” Blake said.
The rehab process doesn’t end once you step back onto the floor. Like many players returning from injury, Blake is still working on getting his conditioning back to the level it was at before he was sidelined.
“After the first two minutes of my first game back it felt like my arms were carrying 25-pound weights around,” Blake said. “It was tough. My legs were tired. It just takes some getting used to how you react to the fatigue again. I wasn’t 100%, but I was good enough to be able to contribute.”
And contribute he has. Even without being at 100%, the Lakers have already been enjoying the positive impact of having Steve Blake back in their lineup. The Lakers started 6-2 upon Blake’s return, where Blake averaged 4.6 assists and even scored a season-high 17 points in a win against Portland at STAPLES Center. The minutes he provides off the bench are crucial for a Lakers team who played without a true backup point guard in Blake’s absence.
Injuries are always frustrating for any athlete, but regardless of the physical shape that a player is in, staying healthy always includes some degree of luck. It’s a degree of luck that Blake understands very well.
“There are things you can do in the weight room to strengthen your muscles and become more flexible. That’s kind of up to you, which I think can help, but you can’t control landing on another guys foot and twisting your ankle,” Blake said. “I couldn’t control smashing into some guy and fracturing my rib. A lot of that has to do with being in the wrong place at the wrong time, but you just have to deal with it.”
Now that Blake is back on the floor and injury free, what is his key to staying healthy from here on out?
Blake responded with a laugh, “Just pray about it and get lucky.”
Catching Up With Head Physical Therapist Judy Seto
Consulting the team for over 15 years, Judy Seto has taken on a more permanent role this season as Head Physical Therapist for the Los Angeles Lakers.
“It has certainly been a transition,” Seto explained of her journey from consultant to full-timer, “but it’s familiar because I had been working with the Lakers a great deal in the past.”
It is Seto’s familiarity and long-time dedication to the team that makes her such an integral and welcomed addition to the Lakers full-time staff. With a bachelor’s degree from UCLA in Kinesiology and Psychology, a master’s degree from Stanford University in physical therapy and a doctorate from Temple, Seto provides a more holistic approach to medicine, stressing both the physical and psychological aspects of recovery.
“You have to incorporate psychology too as part of the program,” said Seto. “You can’t go on a trip without knowing how to get from point A to point B; we help the players navigate that road.”
The recovery process can be that of set backs and delays if not properly managed. Because of this, Seto considers not only the injury but also the individual when treating the players.
“A lot of times injuries are pretty straight forward but the psychological aspect plays a big role in how people recover. How people view their injury and how they view their own progress matters significantly,” Seto said. “People that are more positive generally recover better.”
With that in mind, Seto puts recovery into perspective in terms of a series of goals or milestones, in hopes of getting the player to focus on the positive side of the healing process.
Setting goals or mapping out the recovery process also stands to discourage players from testing out their injuries before being fully healed.
“One thing I remember Mitch Kupchak telling me a long time ago was that he wants a player on the court when they are supposed to get back on the court, not a day too soon or a day too late,” she explained. “With an injury, if you test it when you shouldn’t, it may not hurt today but it might hurt tomorrow. “
This season in particular, Seto’s well-rounded approach to care has proved vital, with the biggest concern being overuse in a shortened season.
“The biggest challenge in this compressed season is that there are less rest days,” she said. “So we have to make sure we are staying on top of injuries. It’s a fine balance, organizing a schedule so that they are not getting tired by doing too much, but at the same time making sure the players are not fatiguing because they aren’t doing enough.”
Seto also stresses the importance of varying each players program based on their position, and after practice, she suggests icing, stretching and staying hydrated as important measures for staying healthy.
Working behind the scenes, Seto’s efforts allow some of the world’s most beloved athletes to perform to their highest potential. And, with the hopes of taking home a championship at the end of the season, Seto and the rest of the training staff are committed to helping the Lakers achieve that dream.
“It’s funny because, for us, it’s those little things,” Seto said “When you see a player get better, figure out a way to avoid certain injuries or make sure they are as effective as they can be, it’s really exciting. That’s the most rewarding part of the job.”
Getting to Know Strength and Conditioning Coach Tim DiFrancesco
Currently in his first season as Los Angeles Lakers strength and conditioning coach, Tim DiFrancesco always aspired to work in this type of field.
The Los Angeles Lakers work to educate the community about the importance of physical fitness and nutrition in an effort to help fight child obesity and encourage all fans to be fit for life.
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