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'These kids are ticking time bombs': The threat of youth basketball | ESPN




"AND, AGAIN, I understand I shouldn't use a broad brush to criticize the entire AAU system, because parts of it are excellent. But also parts of it are very broken, especially [as it] relates to injuries in the league. What we're seeing is a rash of injuries among young players."


NBA commissioner Adam Silver is standing before a lectern prior to Game 1 of the 2017 NBA Finals between the Warriors and Cavaliers. He's upholding a Finals tradition for the commissioner to field questions on issues facing the league. The seventh question, at first, sounds boilerplate: It focuses on the NBA's newly branded G League and whether Silver believes it might become a pipeline for NBA hopefuls to skip college. Silver says it's an issue the league is looking into. But then he takes a detour and begins addressing something else: youth basketball and injuries -- almost as if he has something he wants to get off his chest. "What our orthopedics are telling us," Silver says, "is they're seeing wear-and-tear issues in young players that they didn't used to see until players were much older."


What Silver could not have known was just how steeply injuries -- and especially injuries to young players -- would impact the NBA the very next season. In 2017-18, the number of NBA games lost to injury or illness surpassed the 5,000 mark for the first time since the league stopped using the injured reserve list prior to the 2005-06 campaign, per certified athletic trainer Jeff Stotts, who has cataloged the careers of more than 1,100 players since that point and is considered the most authoritative public resource for tracking injuries in the NBA. This past season, in 2018-19, the league topped the 5,000 mark again.


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