Dirk Nowitzki’s Knee Pain

Dirk Nowitzki, the centerpiece of the Dallas Mavericks and the reigning NBA Finals MVP, will be sidelined for at least four games with right knee pain, but no one seems to care. Team owner Mark Cuban isn’t worried…but he should be. According to Cuban, “There’s nothing specifically wrong. Dirk has a process to get ready. You mess with the process; he just didn’t feel right.”  Of course, Cuban is referring to the NBA lockout that pushed the beginning of the season back, shortened training camp, and shortened the season. Cuban is suggesting that Dirk just didn’t have enough time to get ready. With all due respect, Mr. Cuban, no one did. If the lack of training camp and prep-time is the cause of Dirk’s pain, then shouldn’t ALL players be dealing with the same issue? 

In my opinion, there is more to Dirk’s knee pain. It’s something he’s been dealing with for a while, and it’s time to address the CAUSE rather than just treating the effect.

Dirk is, admittedly, not himself this year. According to ESPNDallas.com:

“I’m having trouble bending my knees,” said Nowitzki, who has been wearing a protective sleeve over the knee, the same one he sprained last season and caused him to miss nine games. “I’ve just got to get my legs stronger, get my base back. I’ve got to use my legs in my shot and hopefully they’ll come back soon….

“It’s OK, better than it was three weeks ago, so that’s very good,” Nowitzki said. “But, it’s still just stiff and I can’t move the way I want to, but it will be OK. I’m going to keep on working, get a stronger base, get my legs strong where they were in June and hopefully I’ll be back to my normal self.”

So Dirk thinks it’s just a conditioning issue as well. But let’s think about it this way–aren’t BOTH legs “out of shape”? Haven’t BOTH knees been away from basketball since last June? Weren’t BOTH knees “locked out” this past offseason?

It just doesn’t make sense. It doesn’t make sense, because this isn’t a “conditioning” issue. However, as of right now, Dallas’ approach is to hold Dirk out and take him through a week of training-camp-like workouts designed to strengthening his knee. Rather than simply strengthen the muscles surrounding his knee, they need to follow the Egoscue model and “straighten, then strengthen.” The Mavericks’ approach is to build a Ferrari on a bent frame. The root cause of the pain needs to be addressed, Mr. Cuban, because I believe Dirk’s career could be at stake.

Let’s take a look at Dirk’s bent frame:

Notice his shoulder position in the picture below. His left shoulder is significantly higher than his right! With a shoulder this out of position, I guarantee that, at minimum, he’s not getting the most out of his upper-body workouts, nor will he during his week of “training camp.” I won’t get in to the fact that he can’t be breathing efficiently with an upper body position that is this compromised. I’m guessing all of that conditioning he’s going to be doing won’t be as beneficial as it could be. Also notice how he is leaning to his right a little bit. Remember, it’s his right knee that’s hurting. Common knowledge says that if something hurts, you’re going to go away from it. You and I aren’t going to have a conversation while I rest my hand on a hot burner! If it hurts, I’m coming off of the burner, yet Dirk is standing on the burner. He’s going to the pain side. Interesting, isn’t it?

Here’s another picture of his shoulder position, just in case any of you thought the first picture was a fluke:

Let’s move down to the lower half of his body. Check out this picture of him standing:

Notice this position of his feet and how the feet point out, but not at the same angle. His right foot is pointed out more than his left. Typically when I see a foot position like this in the clinic I immediately assume that the hip sitting above the foot that is turned out isn’t functioning properly. Generally speaking, we can assume it’s under an undue amount of stress and pressure and the foot and knee are everting in an attempt to help stabilize. The result? Dirk is left with a right knee that is screaming for help and alerting him to the fact that he’s out of balance.

Here’s another photo of Dirk standing:

Again, both the feet are everted. Also, notice how much of the back of his left hand we are able to see. That tells me his shoulder is rounded/winged forward. When we combine that with the picture from above showing his left shoulder elevation, we have an even bigger problem. Not only are his hips out of balance (due to the fact that the feet and knees are pointed out), Dirk’s upper body is out of balance as well. Yet, the consensus is that he just needs more conditioning and to get stronger. Really? The guy’s an elite level athlete. I don’t believe this is simply a strength issue.

To Mr. Cuban and the rest of the Mavericks training staff, please, please, PLEASE don’t fall into the trap of thinking this “isn’t a big deal” and that Dirk just needs to get stronger. He might need to get stronger, but I’m going to caution you about strengthening him on his current frame. He needs to straighten and then strengthen. He’s a Ferrari with a bent frame. He doesn’t need an engine with more horsepower. He needs a straight frame.

QUESTION: What are your thoughts on Dirk’s knee pain?