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Injured athletes need to be saved from themselves

Date

Jon Tuxworth

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How much of a distraction has Lauren Jackson been for the Canberra Capitals?

How much of a distraction has Lauren Jackson been for the Canberra Capitals? Photo: Colleen Petch

Championships first, player welfare second. It is a misguided philosophy that Americans seem to take to new levels.

It is impossible to gauge how much of a factor it was in the star centre being ruled out for the entire WNBL season, but the Seattle Storm's decision to play Lauren Jackson under duress in its WNBA play-off campaign was selfish.

Jackson endured a jam-packed schedule in 2012, including a stint in Europe, the Olympics with the Opals, followed by the back end of the WNBA season with Seattle.

The 31-year-old injured her troublesome hamstring during the Opals Olympic preparations, and has already admitted she virtually played on one leg when she returned to the Storm.

Scans by her medical staff in Australia did not pinpoint the root of the issue for months, before she had successful surgery by orthopaedic surgeon David Young in Melbourne this week.

Seattle may not have been aware of what it was dealing with either, but it was clear Jackson was in pain and in need of rest. It is highly doubtful Seattle would have played her if it was involved in routine regular-season games.

Understandably, the Canberra Capitals are disgruntled they have been given the rough end of the pineapple and will not see a commodity sponsors have paid $333,000 a year for on court this WNBL season.

Basketball Australia boss Tony Jackson highlighted the level of the club's frustration in comments to Fairfax Media this week.

''It's been well argued and debated that cultures in other leagues around the world is win at all costs, forget about player welfare and someone else picks that up down the track,'' he said.

''We can't allow that to be us every time.''

None of this is Lauren Jackson's fault. When given the option, an elite athlete's competitive nature demands they always play through the pain barrier.

''If she, or anybody else had known how serious her injury was, I don't think anybody would have let her play for Seattle,'' Capitals skipper Jess Bibby said last week. ''That shows the competitive nature of the woman, she makes commitments and wants to uphold them, which is a great quality to have.'' Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III played in an NFL play-off match against Seattle when he was still clearly struggling with a knee injury sustained weeks earlier.

The result? Two torn ligaments, and his second major reconstruction in four years.

Not wanting to let down your teammates is undoubtedly a great quality to have, but sometimes athletes need to be saved from themselves.

And that's the responsibility of the head coach and medical staff.

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