Dr. Daniel Medina on keeping the Wizards fit and healthy from a distance

addByline("Jackson Filyo", "WashingtonWizards.com");

This week, Dr. Daniel Medina joined the Wizards Podcast Network’s “Off The Bench” podcast to give an update on how he and his staff are working to keep the team mentally and physically fit and healthy during the coronavirus pandemic. Medina, Monumental Basketball’s Chief of Athlete Care and Performance, explained some of the tactics he’s using with his staff to keep players healthily engaged from a distance and talked about how the team’s recent West Coast road trip gave them a head start in the education process and prepared them for the weeks to come.

Medina noted that in the weeks leading up to the suspension of the NBA season, the Wizards embarked on a West Coast trip that took them through areas that have since been hit hard by the COVID-19 outbreak. As a result, he and his team had already started a series of educational briefings for the players and staff to help them stay safe and help keep their families healthy.

“We had been doing temperature checks on our players during the weeks leading into (the night the season was suspended),” Medina said. “I am from Europe. I am from Spain, particularly. Having some information from colleagues over there and some teams in Italy where the leagues already were shut down, it gave us a little bit of information on where we were heading. So some of those measures were already in place for the Wizards. Temperature checks, like I said. Keeping hands clean and being extremely cautious on how we interacted.”

Medina, who prior to joining Monumental Basketball spent time with the Philadelphia 76ers and FC Barcelona, understands the importance of serving as a guiding light to the players going through a shock to their very routine-oriented lives.

“In our group particularly, you find a group of young guys that for years, they’ve had a routine where they just get up and go to practice or go to work out and take care of their bodies,” Medina said. “All of a sudden you just confine them and recommend them to stay home. There is no gym or anywhere to go or (a place to) do some weightlifting. This disruption is shocking at first. That’s why it’s been so hard to contain people at home. In our case, we provided and put it over three aspects. One of them, as I said, is education. Once you rationalize and understand why you need to stay home, it’s easier.”

Helping players productively and healthily fill their wide-open days has been the performance staff’s top priority over the last three weeks. Part of that is culinary – guiding young players with no experience in the kitchen to make healthy choices. The team has also arranged to have their meal service extended to delivery for players in the area.

With players confined to their homes and without access to team facilities, keeping the players in physical condition has taken some creativity. Medina credits Mark Simpson (VP of Player Performance), Blair O'Donovan (Director of Physical Preparation) and Jeff Bangs (Head Athletic Trainer) with crafting workout plans and distributing equipment kits to each player so they could keep up with basketball-specific workouts in their home.

“As we’re all normalizing the use of video calls, our players have a weekly meeting with the strength and conditioning coach, with our staff and they do workouts together,” Medina said. “This particular week, they have done it twice as a group. So they meet as a team, they get to see each other, get some social interaction, jokes, go through exercises, interact with coach and they get their workout done. There are some other activities going on like yoga sessions that the players also enjoy very much. As I said, this interaction has a psychological aspect…Players have that resource to not only take care of their bodies, but also their minds.”

“How do we manage to work through and understand a scenario where we don’t really know?” Medina asked. “We’ve seen days and weeks that don’t look anything like the others. Things keep changing every day. We don’t know what’s going to happen with the calendar at all. It has a stressful side. We’re lucky to have a pretty solid mental health and performance department led by Derick Anderson, Jim Soda and Stu Singer. The three of them have been available from the very first minute was well.”

As of now, the performance staff has been tasked with keeping the players ready and in shape to return to basketball. Medina notes that the biggest challenge they face is aiming to have players in peak condition at a date that hasn’t yet been set.

“Let’s not forget, these are young, healthy athletes,” Medina said. “With the proper stimulus, they will be ready in a short period of time…As you all know, and as every basketball fan knows, the biggest challenge is, at this point when you stop, is tendon issues and chronic joint issues. In that sense, the program that we have put together, and a lot of credit to our PTs, let’s have our guys not lose much muscle, have those tendons ready to be uploaded and if we’re given two or three weeks to ramp up, we’ll be ready to do it.”

Medina says he proud of the work that he and his team have done to this point and that with so much unknown, the only thing they can do is continue to help players fill their days with healthy habits.

“We’ve been super successful these last three weeks in terms of keeping our guys engaged and I give the players a lot of credit for doing it, the organization for providing and everyone in my department keeping it that way,” Medina said. “I don’t know, we don’t know how many weeks we are going to be in this position. We don’t really know what the next steps are going to be competition wise for us, and it’s hard to predict, but we try to improve every week, understand what they players like and what they need and adapt the resources that we have.”