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Nov 19, 2013; Auburn Hills, MI, USA; New York Knicks power forward Amar

New York Knicks Medical Staff Hurting Team

There was once a time when players played hurt.

In the schoolyards and playgrounds of New York City there’s an expression, “no blood, no foul.” Players in every sport defy medial logic to play the game they love.

New York Knicks head coach Mike Woodson is on life support and soon may have a game restriction for this season, partially due to the Knicks medical staff and their protocols.

Nov 8, 2013; Charlotte, NC, USA; New York Knicks forward center Amar

However, before you put the full blame on Woodson, you have to take a closer look at Dr. Lisa Callahan and her medical staff.

The year started with so many restrictions on so many players, Woodson had to keep an eye on his watch as much as his team.  As doctor who has worked with numerous professional athletes from all sports, I believe the Knick player’s restrictions are subjective based, with no objective formulas to base their newly imposed restrictions.

I find it amazing how they have restrictions on Pablo Prigioni, Kenyon Martin and Amar’e Stoudemire currently.

Why not Iman Shumpert, Metta World Peace, (who has had his knee drained twice) and J. R. Smith, all of whom had recent knee surgery?

Why isn’t Shumpert on restriction?  He had a second knee surgery this summer after prior ACL surgery. What about Smith?  Let us not forget the surgeries on both Stoudemire and Shumpert this summer were kept from the public, which begs me to ask this question. When was Shumpert’s surgery?

Remember both James Dolan and Woodson were upset he played in only one game in the Vegas Summer League.  Was his surgery before, or after?  If before how many weeks?

This is the same Shumpert who came back to play last year? The same Shumpert who had his ACL repair the same time as the Bulls Derrick Rose. The same player who returned much sooner than Rose.  This is a tough young kid, who loves his teammates, who returned to help his team; I applaud him for his hard work during rehabilitation and Carmelo Anthony for standing up for him this week.

Players know when they are ready to play.  They are not going to risk their careers. Rose knew he was not ready, Shumpert knew he was. No two patients heal the same. There are no Bible’s in sports medicine, just guides.

Personally, I like the Bulls medical staff handling of Rose, versus the Knicks handling of many Knick players. They allowed him to listen to his body. Yes, they provided support, but they didn’t allow him to play until he was ready. This is how it should be. Don’t let a player return till they are 100 percent ready.

But when cleared, allow them to play.

In my humble opinion, the Knicks medical staff is making the restriction protocol up as they go along.  Thus they are putting the season in jeopardy.

Martin objected and was released from his restriction. Why, because he objected?  Either a player is ready or not. Stoudemire is trying to do the same now, he wants to play 25 minutes minimum per game.

He states he was cleared to play 25 minutes, yet Woodson stays mum on his reduced minutes.  Is Amare ready, or not?   Playing a player for five or 10 minute increments means nothing and makes no sense. When the player is ready, he will let the doctors know.  Yes of course there are basic guides and protocols to follow.

My professor, my mentor, Dr. Donald Gutstein, taught us the following eight step protocol when dealing with any type of sports injury.


  1. Allow healing.
  2. Restore full range of motion and function in the injured area.
  3. Regain normal gait. . No athlete should be allowed to return to sports if he/ she is still limping.
  4. Regain muscle strength.
  5. Regain endurance.
  6. Regain skills.
  7. Listen to your body.
  8. Regain confidence.  

Once the athlete has cleared this eight step formula and is cleared to play, let him play, or don’t clear him.

Stoudemire has been able to practice for an hour but only play 10 to 15 minutes. That makes no sense and defies logic.  Let him play, if pain or swelling occurs, shut him down.  No player should play until they are ready, until they are healed, but once they are cleared to play, let them play.  

Anthony plays more minutes than almost anyone in the NBA, with his many injuries last year why is he not on a minutes restriction?

I see a double standard here.

I know how old Prigioni is, but if he is playing well, leave him in the game.  He is in good enough shape to play more than 20 minutes if he is playing well.  Restricting his minutes does not prevent him from ageing.  Yes, Jason Kidd was done come the playoffs last year.  But Kidd played 19 seasons and was beyond 40, there is a difference. Mariano Rivera showed the world this year that you can still excel after 40. Lifestyle and genetics play a huge part in the treatment and performance of an athlete

Woodson no longer coaches by instinct, by the feel of the game, but by medically imposed subjective restrictions.

The medical staff and players must listen to and trust each other. Once a player is cleared, they need to back off.  Minute restrictions are new to the game and are nothing more than a speculative way to preserve an athlete’s career.  No one knows more about an athlete’s body than the athlete.  Professional athletes are attuned to their bodies. The staff needs to listen more, let the player play more and allow Woodson to coach again.

The medical staff can’t heal this team, time heals.  There is much talent on this Knick team, but far too much politics.  The medical staff needs to let them play and not worry about having players like Amare, Prigioni, Martin and others ready by the playoffs.

At this rate, there will be no playoffs.  Work with the players, allow them to listen to their bodies and trust them, so in return they may trust you.

Dr. Eric Kaplan is a Bestselling Author

Follow him on twitter @ drekaplan

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Tags: Amare Stoudemire Iman Shumpert Mike Woodson New York Knicks

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