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February 15, 2016

Taysom and The Connected Body Parts

-- Wherein we wonder, are all injuries related?

In the wake of yet another disappointing BYU performance against a ho-hum Power 5 team,1 1. Author's note: this post was written back in December when losses to Missouri and Utah were still fresh on the mind. a random quip from a medical blog grabbed my attention. It made me think of the one person who could've prevented this, the one who could have kept BYU's season from taking a turn for the average, he who is anything but.

Taysom Hill.

At first glance it seems three completely random injuries blew up a trio of BYU seasons: a torn LCL in '12, a broken leg in '14, lisfranc troubles in '15. But are these three injuries completely independent of one another? 

The following is a lengthy and terrific excerpt from Tim Grover's blog. Who the $#@! is Tim Grover you ask? Only the lead member of the NBA's physical trainer Illuminati.

"Everything is connected; the body is an endless physical chain. When one link in the chain breaks or wears out, the next link compensates and takes on some of the stress, until it begins to break down as well. Eventually the damage spreads all the way down the chain, until it becomes unusable. You can wipe away the surface rust and grime, shine it up, and the chain looks as strong as ever. But unless you inspect every link, cleaning and maintaining and treating hidden damage and decay, the problem still exists; you just can’t see it. So what began as a knee injury often becomes a hamstring problem or an ankle issue.

And of course, everyone always looks for the next injury to occur on the same side as previous injuries. I recently heard from an athlete who was dealing with recurrent pain in his left hip. “I can’t figure it out,” he said, “I’ve had knee surgery and some hamstring issues on the right, but never been injured on the left, so it can’t be related.”

Wanna bet?

As far as I know, your right and left sides remain connected at all times; when you’re healthy, they operate in a specific firing pattern that allows you to move correctly. Picture one of those elaborate domino competitions, where all the tiles are perfectly arranged; if everything is set up correctly, you tap one and the rest fall in perfect order. If one is out of place…everything immediately stops.

The body has a similar domino effect: When you’ve been injured on one side, it’s highly likely you’ll end up with issues on the other side if you don’t have the correct firing pattern necessary to support and stabilize the injured area. Result: Overcompensating and overloading the “healthy” side (which is now no longer technically healthy), causing the predictable pull or tweak.

We saw an unfortunate example of that last week, when Kevin Durant went down with a hamstring strain. First question: Same side? Same side as the previous injury and surgery to the right ankle?

No, everyone said, it’s the other side. Left hamstring, right ankle. Phew. Unrelated.

False. It’s all related.

You don’t have to be an athlete to experience this. Ever break your toe or twist your ankle? How’d you get around? You shifted your weight to the other side. Now you’re overcompensating with the healthy side…which won’t stay healthy for long if it has to bear the weight that should be evenly distributed on both sides.

We see this way too often with pro athletes. They get injured, go through rehab, and get back to their sport as if nothing happened. Meanwhile, the damaged area might be ready to go, but what about the rest of the chain that’s been overloaded and overcompensating for the damage? Unless the rehab protocol includes training the entire body to fire in the correct sequence—not only physically but mentally as well–chances of another injury are ridiculously high. Now they call you “injury-prone” and start taking bets on when you’ll break down again.

If you want an example of this, look no further than Houston Texans RB Arian Foster. Shoulder. Ankle. Left knee. Right knee. Hamstring. Back. Calf. Hamstring. Groin. Achilles. The domino tiles are set up wrong. Some of the muscles are firing, some are lying dormant. Perfect example of cleaning off the rust and ignoring hidden damage.

True for the pros and true for you: Once you’ve rehabbed an injury, many of those exercises and treatments have to become part of your everyday routine if you want to stay healthy. Remember: rehab is a process, and the process never stops."

What does this tell us? Well, nothing because we aren't doctors and even doctors don't know for sure what goes on inside of people. But the suggestion is clear and it is this: Taysom Hill's 2014 and 2015 fallouts may not have been the result of bad luck or a proneness to injury. They may have simply been the result of the first injury, the 2012 disaster that should have and could have been averted by a coaching staff that knew better.

Given the atmosphere currently surrounding college athletics , the uncertainty regarding conference affiliation, the potential splitting of FBS schools into divisions between the haves and the have-nots, and given BYU's fight to make it into one of these conferences before it's too late ... well, the need to record a great season has never been more important. Unfortunately our best chance of doing so is on the sideline. I've said it before and I'll say it again: Taysom Hill in 2012 may be the most devastating injury in Cougar football history. If BYU someday finds themselves locked out, forever in limbo, incapable of competing with the highly resourced, it may all trace back to that moment when a kneel down should have been called instead of a run up the middle.

Sure, we don't know if Taysom would have led BYU to undefeated heights in 2014 or 2015, but the way he was performing certainly put the possibility in play. Instead we're two years deeper into independence with nothing on the resume to show for it. 

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