The day after Derrick Rose went crashing to the floor clutching his left knee, followed by Iman Shumpert doing much the same, the debate began amongst the NBA obsessed whether Adidas shoes were causing these traumatic injuries.
With the recent loss of Denver Nuggets small forward playmaker Danilo Gallinari to an ACL injury shortly after he switched from Reebok to the ultra light Adizero Adidas shoe, the questions about the shoemaker continue to rage on.
Who could blame them? Minnesota’s Ricky Rubio had gone down a little more than a month prior to Rose and Shumpert and like those players is sponsored by Adidas. Since then, you can add John Wall (stress injury in his knee before the season) and Leandro Barbosa (ACL) to the list of Adidas players whose knees have failed them this year. But why stop at the last year? Does Adidas have a history of sponsoring players with injury issues and perhaps that’s where the questioning of the shoe comes from?
Other injury riddled players sponsored by the company include Brook Lopez (foot and ankle injuries last year), Dwight Howard (back issues) and Eric Gordon (well documented injury history concerning his knees).
Those are the active ones, let’s not forget that Tracy McGrady was endorsed by Adidas and his injury history is both lengthy and knee oriented. But the question of is Adidas responsible comes down to a question of how they engineer their shoes and most NBA fans and bloggers are far from footwear specialists, myself included.
Of course, it was a Nike shoe designer that sparked the controversy that is partially responsible for the intrigue into Adidas’ design after stating that LeBron James is only getting stronger while Rose, with his Adizero shoes, suffered an ACL injury and appears to be “breaking down in front of us”.
Part of argument that the Adidas shoes are at fault, at least the Adizero high tops, actually stems from a debate that dates back to the days of Kareem Abdul-Jabar concerning high tops versus low tops. If high tops limit the range of motion for the ankle, do they negatively affect the knee by making it the active joint in the leg in a high stress sport like basketball?
Studies show that high tops do not significantly change the motion of the knee and are not directly related to knee injuries. Furthermore, no studies have shown that ACL injuries are more likely to occur when the ankle’s range of motion is limited by ankle braces or high top shoes.
A 2008 Journal of Athletic Training study cited by a short article on this very topic by deadspin.com a year ago says this:
The findings from this review lend support to ACL injury prevention programs designed to prevent unopposed excessive quadriceps force and frontal-plane or transverse-plane (or both) moments to the knee and to encourage increased knee flexion angle during sudden deceleration and acceleration tasks.
In other words, excessive force from the quadriceps and sudden acceleration, deceleration or change in direction are more the cause of ACL injuries than anything being transferred up from the ankle, but it’s that the argument against Adidas shoes is simply too interesting that keeps this thing alive. It’s a bit of a conspiracy theory, a negligent company endangering its incredibly valuable clientele with a faulty product.
But let’s consider some of the worst injuries of this NBA season for a moment and see how Adidas measures up against other brands.
It was announced just 12 hours ago that Kevin Love will undergo arthroscopic knee surgery after a season spent mostly on the sidelines with a series of hand injuries. He apparently felt discomfort in the knee in December, which got worse as he attempted to rehab and make a return this campaign. Love is sponsored by a Chinese shoe maker called 361 Degrees.
Metta World Peace tore his meniscus and required major surgery less than a month ago and is the first player to wear Balln footwear. But let’s look at Adidas’ major competitor.
Andrew Bynum, perhaps the poster child along with Greg Oden for knee troubles, wears Nikes on the floor as did Oden. Add to Nike’s list, Rajon Rondo who tore his ACL in practice, Danny Granger (two knee surgeries in less than a year), Amar’e Stoudemire (knee), Anderson Varejao (knee before the blood clot in his lung) and Dirk Nowitzki, who had knee surgery before the season.
What meaning you assign to the injuries and the corresponding footwear is up to you, but here is a fact: basketball is a high stress sport for the body. Running at full speed, jumping to incredible heights and crashing to the hardwood floor amidst body traffic that includes guys whose heads stand at seven feet tall and who weigh over 250 pounds is dangerous and very easily harmful to the body no matter what shoes you wear. This the NBA, players get hurt and over the course of an 82 game season, a player’s body is placed under incredible stress. Blaming Adidas, Nike or any other shoe for these players injuries is like blaming your tires for your car motor breaking down. They are athletes, and though they may seem superhuman, these injuries are just a reminder that they are not.