The NBA's compressed schedule, with 66 games in four months followed by one day off before the playoffs, was tough on everyone.
Did it cause more injuries?
"Yeah, probably," Chicago's Joakim Noah said. "Probably."
What about the torn ACLs that ended the season for Derrick Rose and Iman Shumpert on Saturday?
Unlikely, said a surgeon.
"There is no evidence that wear and tear, or that kind of issue, playing too much, really has any correlation with ACL injuries in any sport that we've ever studied," Dr. David Altchek from the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York said Sunday.
Rose, last season's MVP, was hurt in the final minutes of Chicago's Game 1 victory over Philadelphia, and the Knicks' Shumpert went down a short while later. The blame game started soon after, with many pointing the finger at the hectic post-lockout schedule.
Boston center Jermaine O'Neal, whose season ended early after wrist surgery, wrote on his Twitter page that it was a "clear sign" of fatigued bodies from a condensed season, writing "2 torn acl injuries to key players!"
But Altchek argues that too much playing could actually make a player less susceptible to the injuries that Rose and Shumpert sustained, because they might lack the type of explosiveness it takes to blow out a knee ligament.
"In fact, I think if you're tired, you're a lot less likely to tear your ACL because you're not going to be as explosive," said Altchek, who has operated on players such as Josh Howard, David West and Purdue's Robbie Hummel, and been a consultant for the NBA.
NBA players and owners settled on a 66-game schedule starting on Christmas when they settled the lockout during Thanksgiving weekend. Though perhaps ambitious, both sides saw it as a way to make back as much lost revenue as possible.
Spokesman Tim Frank said that with respect to the season, the league had "ongoing discussions with team doctors and athletic trainers about best practices and planning for injuries."
The revised schedule amounted to about two extra games a month for teams, from 14 to 16. Though the league said the injury rate was about the same as in a normal 82-game season, players say they felt a difference.
"This has been a compressed season, a lot more games, a lot less practice time, a lot less recovery time," Knicks guard Baron Davis said. "You can definitely look at the season and just look at the schedule and say that guys really never got the ample amount of time to rest and heal their bones because you're fighting for playoff position. It's game after game after game. So, you know, it's tough. But there's injuries, there's freak injuries in basketball that's always happening."
They've knocked out players such as Dwight Howard, Al Horford, Andrew Bogut, Jeremy Lin and Stephen Curry, but most were injuries that could come from excessive usage, such as sprains and strains.
Alchek said ACL tears, far more common in female athletes, are scary injuries in that there's little explanation for how to prevent them. He said the non-contact version that both Rose and Shumpert sustained are often more prevalent in the strongest, healthiest athletes.
Contact ACL tears, Altchek said, are the kind that can happen to a football player hit on the side of the knee. But Rose was jumping to stop when he was injured, and Shumpert was trying to maneuver with a behind-the-back dribble when he crumbled to the court.
Both players battled injuries during the season, with Rose missing 27 games for groin, back, toe, foot and ankle problems. There was a mixture of anger and sympathy around the NBA when the popular reigning MVP went down, possibly taking the Bulls' title hopes with him.
Bulls general manager Gar Forman said Rose's previous injuries or the schedule did not lead to the ACL tear. But players don't seem so certain.
"There's a lot of speculation. And it doesn't matter. We're in this season, we played the games, we're in the playoffs now. Hopefully no one else goes down with these type of injuries," Miami's Dwyane Wade said. "It's not anything that we want to see for none of our players to go down with injuries. So you don't know. You don't know if it was because of the condensed season. You don't know what the case may be. The biggest thing is that them guys get healthy."
Twitter became a forum for debate about the schedule's role even before Rose and Shumpert were in their hospital rooms. Former player and ESPN analyst Jalen Rose listed some players that had gone down, putting the blame on the schedule.
For some injuries, it may have been. Just not the two from Saturday.
"There really is no evidence of that, in any athlete, that wear and tear, like gradual wearing away of the ACL, is an issue in terms of the injury," Altchek said.
AP Sports Writers Andrew Seligman in Chicago and Tim Reynolds in Miami contributed to this report.
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