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Playing While Injured: Is It Worth the Risk?

Courtesy of NBA

It’s hard to think of any athlete who hasn’t dreamed of winning a championship game. Players on the Miami Heat and Denver Nuggets were battling in the NBA finals hoping to make their dreams a reality. One player, the point guard for the Heat Tyler Herro, could only watch from the sidelines as the Miami Heat’s chances of winning an NBA championship faded fast.

All eyes were on Herro, who experienced a broken hand in the first round of the NBA playoffs, and the possibility of his return is got a lot of attention as the Heat needed some spark to get back into the series. Reports said Herro was still experiencing pain and swelling post surgery, and the pressure he had to return was mounting.

Senior NBA reporter Vincent Goodwill for Yahoo Sports is just one of many voices who had been giving updates about Herro’s condition. Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra stated that Herro is out.

Courtesy of CBS Sports

While it is common to see athletes play through injuries, especially in high-stake games like the playoffs, we must wonder if it is really worth the risk. After an injury in game two of the western conference finals, Los Angeles Lakers small forward Lebron James said that nothing would keep him out of game three, even though he was experiencing pain from his foot injury. He played throughout the whole series and, after the Lakers lost, it was announced that he had a torn tendon in his right foot which may require surgery in the off season. It was also recently announced that Knicks player Julius Randle, after only missing one game in the playoffs due to an ankle injury, had arthroscopic surgery in his left foot.

Courtesy of Phil Long

In the case of point Herro, the Miami Heat seem to be taking no chances. In a June 8 interview Spoelstra told the media he hasn’t met the criteria to return to a finals game, despite Herro wanting to play.

"He wants to be out there. And he was really excited at the beginning of this playoff run for the opportunity that we felt that we had with this team, but there's sometimes things that you can't control. So right now he's not cleared to take that next step. He's checked every box so far, but he's not at that next step yet to clear for an NBA Finals game.

Although basketball isn’t a contact sport, there is a higher rate of injuries than might be expected. Often from how players need to pivot, move, and change their pace in order to keep up with the game. According to live injury sports data from ESPN5, 82% of injured NBA players end up with long-standing injuries. It makes sense that professional athletes feel pressured to play when they are injured. But playing through injuries, during an already physically demanding game, can be even more harmful than sitting out.

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