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Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Girlie Men in Ann Arbor?

Many Michigan fans will agree that injuries played at least a part in having the worst football season in over 20 years in 2005. Injuries are certainly part of any sport, particularly football. This past year's squad was hit not only with a high frequency of injuries, but they seemed to linger and even when they returned to the lineup, the players never appeared to get back to 100%. This affected key players, particularly on offense. The games without Hart and Long, undoubtedly, contributed to some of the five losses.

Now the injury bug has hit the Wolverine basketball team. Currently three players are out, including two starters. Granted, one has mono, but Lester Abram has missed numerous games and his ankle injury has lingered longer than one of Wangs' farts.

What do these have to do with each other (the injuries, not Wangs' farts)? Well, maybe it's just bad luck that both Wolverine teams' seasons were sabotaged by injury. But maybe there's something more to it: conditioning. Every team has injuries, and some just won't allow the players back on the field of play. But maybe there's something in the Michigan Athletic Department's theories of conditioning that keeps some players out longer than at other schools. Maybe they're not in the best shape before their injuries, or maybe poor conditioning results in some of these injuries taking place. It was also evident that the Wolverine defense tired in a number of games, leading - along with passive play-calling - to the late blown leads.

There's been a fair amount of talk on the Web about the strength and conditioning program for the football team, and I don't claim to be any sort of expert. But I'm tired of injuries killing what would otherwise have been far more enjoyable seasons in Ann Arbor.


IC said...

Part of the reason our football injuries seem to linger is because we as fans have no clue regarding their severity, due to the program's Soviet-style control of information and lackluster at best beat reporters.

For all we know, Hart may have come back early from his ankle injury last year. It seemed like it was taking forever to heal because it was initially reported as no big deal, but my guess is that it was always a serious injury and the coaches knew it.

BaggyPantsDevil said...

This has been my impression, too. This is one of the reasons I’m not doing the Happy Dance of Celebration over Jim Herrmann’s departure even though I think it is a good move.

Watching the Alamo Bowl, I couldn’t help noticing that Gabe Watson seemed to play only one down at a time before shuffling over to the sideline to chug down some Gatorade and catch his breath. Although he could be very effective when on the field, it appeared to me that he lacked the conditioning to stay in the game for any significant amount of time. Now, conditioning will always be problematic with someone weighing in excess of 300 pounds, but he seems to me to be just an extreme example of a more widespread problem with the team.

I am certainly no expert when it comes to strength and conditioning, especially when discussing sport specific training techniques. From my limited knowledge, Michigan is one of the few schools that still uses machine based High Intensity Training or H.I.T. I have no idea what the techniques other schools use are called or which schools use what.

I have read articles and interviews critical of machine based H.I.T. for football, but those are usually from trainers who use other techniques and could simply be self-serving. One, a guy named Joe DeFranco, worked with Dhani Jones and Brandon Short (Penn State also uses machine based H.I.T. which must seem positively science fiction like to Joe Paterno, I half expected him to just have his players toss medicine balls back and forth) and he takes a lot of credit for overcoming the effects of machine based H.I.T.

Now, H.I.T. is the gospel for bodybuilders, but bodybuilders are simply looking for mass and care little about actually performance. My experience with guys who take up fairly serious bodybuilding in the military is that many completely lose the ability to run for any distance, have almost no flexibility, and frequently have injuries (usually knee problems).

One problem that I do know of with using machines to train is that they general focus only on the larger muscles. Conversely, using free weights works the smaller muscles that frequently support and hold joints together. Thus machine based training can lead to injury since those joints are where the injuries occur and the larger muscles are over developed in proportion to the smaller muscles that support them.

Another apparent problem with H.I.T. is that the athletes work to muscle failure which means they need a longer recovery period. I’m just guessing here, but I imagine running drills without fully recovering from a H.I.T. workout would 1) mean it can’t really be done at full speed and 2) lead to injury due to the fatigued muscles.

Again, I have no clue what specifically Michigan does or doesn’t do or what other schools do, and am not an expert on all this--consider this my sweeping disclaimer that I could be totally wrong about everything--but I do think that a lot of the areas Michigan has struggled in recently—poor defensive performance late in the game, giving up big plays, poor tackling, an abundance of injuries, highly ranked recruiting classes not quite living up to expectations—could be traced back to inadequate strength and conditioning training.

Anonymous said...

I understand your lack of enjoyment due to injuries. However, sports enjoyment is a finite commodity that many groups stuggle to control (much like oil).

It seems that other groups have taken some of the enjoyment normally held by UM fans. There are several options available to alleviate the situation:

1. New sources: The UM Hockey team is usually top-ranked, baseball will be starting soon, and for the desperate, the Winter Olympics (a very inferior source, but a few drops could be gleaned if processed sufficiently). Or, pick a secondary team, like Chaminade, that you can root for without interfering with your UM ties.

2. Alternative types of enyoyment: Instead of UM wins, enjoy OSU & MSU losses. YOu can root for them to get crushed, or alternatively, beaten by a last-second half court buzzer beater. You can get a lot of enjoyment out of watching their players collapse on the floor in dejection, or even better, when the cheerleaders cry.

3. Conservation: Recycle old wins on ESPN Classic.

4. War. Well, it's what large groups of people do when they are denied a resource they feel they need. So, invade East Lansing, declare it "Ann Arbor Annex", dress their teams in Maize & Gold, & root for them as well. Or, just make them pay tribute (3 players a year, something like that).

Otherwise, hope for a mild winter & an early Spring Game.

And remember, it could be worse. The UK Wildcats haven't had a shipment of sports enjoyment in months.


BaggyPantsDevil said...


Your suggestions are much appreciated, however, suggestion #3 doesn't work. ESPN Classic generally shows old Michigan LOSSES, generally focusing on the most painful, last second defeats that catapulted some other team or player to fame and glory (i.e. Kordell Stewart, Vince Young).

Me, I'm going for the cute U.S. women's Curling team and that callipygian German speed skater with the belly tattoo and naughty pigtails.

surrounded in columbus said...

glad i'm not the only one that appreciates the winter olympics. did you catch the us-sweden women's curling match thursday night????

enough to make you want to go out and get a broom.