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6.10.7 Interview With Brett Zani June 2010

Basketball Crazy’s brief about Brett Zani: Brett is a well respected Occupational Therapist who has had a successful junior WA State Representative and State Basketball League career in WA.  With Brett having played the sport of basketball at a high level, he has developed a high understanding of what stresses and injuries the game has on the body.  Brett also teaches students studying Occupational Therapy.  Brett has treated many basketball players for all sorts of injuries and successfully rehabilitated them back into the game and Basketball Crazy thought it would be a good idea to interview Brett given his knowledge on basketball injuries and rehabilitation.  Brett has also shown considerable interest in young elite athletes providing structural testing to NITCP athletes in Western Australian.  Basketball Crazy wishes to point out that there is no financial benefit for either party for promoting Brett's business or skills.  Hopefully Brett's interview will provoke some thinking and maybe alternative options for treating basketball injuries.

Current Profession:  Occupational Therapist and Post Graduate Tutor    

Website:          www.healthcentral.com.au

Family Members:           Partner   Tessa Zani

                                         Pets    Harry Zani

Coaching and Career Qualifications & Memberships:

Place of Birth:  Perth  Year of Birth 1982

History of Involvement with basketball Highlights:

         Junior Playing Career Highlights 

    U/16  Mens WA State Team Selection - WA Metro 1997

    U/16 National Championships Highest Scorer 1997

    WABL U/18 Div  1 MVP 1998

    ITC Program Selection 1997-1999

    U/18 Mens WA State Team Selection - WA Metro 1998, 1999

    Vice Captain U/18 Mens State Team - WA Metro

    U/18 National Championship Gold Medal 1999 - WA Metro

 Senior Playing Career Highlights

    Played SBL with Perth Redbacks 1999 - 2005

    WABL Mens Division 1 MVP 2000

    WABL Mens Division 1 MVP 2001

Working Career Highlights

Most admired International or USA Coach:  Greg Popovich, Mike Kryzzewski

Most admired International of USA Player:  (current) LeBron James, Dwayne Wade, Kobe Bryant - (past) Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson

Most admired Australian Coach: Brian Goorjian

Most admired Australian Player:  Andrew Gaze (I know he's retired but...)

Most memorable basketball moment as a player: Winning my 1st National Championship (U/18s 1999)

Most memorable basketball moment as a Occupational Therapist: Helping Lakeside win their first SBL championship

Brett’s most rehabilitation phrase: 'You put so much time into your game - but how much time do you put into your body?'


Basketball Crazy’s Interview With Brett Zani

BBC   Hi Brett, thank you for taking the time to talk with Basketball Crazy.

BZ   Thank you for the opportunity. It is very flattering to be asked to contribute something. I read all the newsletters  and I think the website is a great resource for coaches and players.

BBC   Looking back on your junior playing career, you won a national junior championship for WA playing with and against some very high profile players?  Can you tell us what it was like to win that championship and let the readers know who you played with and against?   

BZ    That first National Championship is one of my most cherished memories for so many reasons. Firstly because it ended a long drought for a national title for WA, I played a large role in the team both as vice-captain and a contributor, and because we lost our first game of the tournament and responded with winning every other game including a great come back against QLD in the semi -final to get into the Gold Medal Game.

 That team had some great talent we started with myself, Adam Caporn, Matthew Burston, Ben Tatulli and Jarrad Corbett.

 The U/20 Gold Medal winning side was very deep also - Liam Rush, Matthew Burston, Simon Blennerhassett, Adam Caporn, Ash McCormick were our starters.

 The most memorable match ups were probably having to guard Ian Crosswhite in the Gold Medal game when Burston got into foul trouble. My role on the U/20 side was much less than my previous state team roles - I was there primarily to defend and get Rush & Burston the ball.

BBC  Brett, you appear to still have a deep love for the game of basketball keeping close tabs on the NBA, NBL and even involving yourself in NITCP when you can.  I believe you still play socially as well.  What continues to draw you to the sport of basketball? 

BZ    I think basketball is the greatest game on Earth. I love the balance of 'brains & brawn' - athleticism & technique - the fact that a smart player can outplay a more athletic one.

BBC   What attracted you to study Occupational Therapy?

BZ      I  had a number of injuries when playing and I always felt there was a better treatment model out there than the Physiotherapy and Sports Trainers I had been sent to. I found that successful treatment model in soft tissue Occupational Therapy. I wanted to help people get more out of their lives, reach their potential and live and play without pain.

BBC  What is the most satisfying aspect of your job as an Occupational Therapist?

BZ   Seeing results everyday. Everyday I have little victories - be it having a client walk into a session on crutches and walk out without them pain free or having a client with headaches tell me that since their last treatment they have not had a single one. Being able to help people is very rewarding.

BBC  For a basketballer, looking to have an injury treated, in your view, what are some of the key differences between service providers providing treatment from a Physiotherapist, Chiropractor or an Occupational Therapist?  Furthermore, why should injured basketballers consider Occupational Therapy?

BZ    Physical, emotional and/or chemical stressors influence our ability to perform at an optimal level. Occupational Therapy improves function by increasing energy levels, and facilitating movement patterns - helping individuals achieve and maintain an optimum level of function.

Occupational Therapy is unique in that the model we employ is truly holistic. Holistic medicine is treatment that factors in all the variables affecting an individual's condition - their pre-injury history, workplace conditions, hormone and nutritional function as well as their musculoskeletal performance. Thus the majority of my clinic is not 'treating injury' - it is enhancing performance. Occupational therapy does not just resolve injuries and pain - it will improve your game.

For example - a basketballer can do 1000s of calf raises to increase their vertical leap but if they have a sacral or pelvic issue they will never reach their jump potential because the calf and foot are supplied by their sacral nerves. Also if the player has a weak core section that force being generated isn't translating efficiently into motion and thus they wont be jumping as high as they can either. There are also other points to consider such as if they have a pronated foot type of plantar tension which will limit their explosiveness - as well as if there are any nutritional deficiencies in magnesium or iron or dietary issues such as a lack of viable protein to build muscle to fuel power. A lot of players have poor lymphatic circulation resulting in fluid retention in the calf which will cause shin pain and limit calf function and that needs to be addressed via supplementation and compression supports. You can see how involved our treatment process becomes!

Soft tissue occupational therapy is very 'hands on' which I think is very important. Palpation is becoming a lost skill in medicine. I have picked up issues such as chondral tears and ligament laxities that other health professionals would require CT Scans to identify. It is amazing what you can 'feel' with your hands.

BBC   Should an injured basketballer seek a Doctor’s advice prior to attending an OT?

BZ  No not at all. We are 'front line' practitioners meaning people can see us straight away for diagnosis and treatment. Having said that, a lot my clients are referred from a number of GPs, surgeons and other health professionals.

BBC  Do you see Occupational Therapy playing a greater role in rehabilitation and recovery in sport?

BZ    Absolutely. 10 years ago soft tissue Occupational Therapy was barely heard of in elite sport circles. Now we have a presence in many major sporting associations and clubs. Health Central clients include NBL & SBL players (basketball), WA Ballet, Youth Ballet WA & WAAPA dancers, High Performance Centre Gymnasts, professional & amateur triathletes, the list goes on and on.

BBC What would be the most common basketball injury that you would deal with and how do you go about treating it?

BZ   Definitely ankle sprains. The key to ankle sprains is not overdoing the "RICE" principle. People (health professionals included) spend too much time with anti-inflammatories, ice and compression. Most ankle sprains will only require ice and anti-inflammatory medication for less than 24 hours.

Where our treatment model excels is in our ability to identify when the inflammatory process of injury has stopped and the body has begun its repair and remodeling phases of recovery. By beginning treatment, weight bearing and exercise sooner rather than later you have less scar tissue, more mobility, less loss or strength and return to basketball sooner!

BBC  If one of our readers were to be interested in becoming an Occupational Therapist, what do you recommend they focus their high school subjects on to enhance their prospects of studying OT in University?

BZ    There are no pre requisites for Occupational Therapy but obviously human biology would be of great benefit. ECU & Curtin University both offer Occupational Therapy courses. There are great Occupational Therapy degrees interstate - James Cook University in Townsville is one such example.

BBC   Do you believe that administrators and coaches of basketball do enough to reduce the risk of injury to athletes?  What key factors do you think could be improved or implemented to reduce injuries on the basketball court by these administrators and coaches?

BZ      That's a great question. Coaches and administrators DO NOT do enough to avoid injury. A lot of coaches have poor warm up routines - I dint know how many times I have seen coaches warm up their kids by having them 'run laps' - just awful.

A warm up should prepare your body for the demands it is about to see... coaches should have their players do slides, change of directions, backwards running, and lunge walks as well as running.

I would also encourage coaches to get in touch with us at Health Central and organise injury screening for their players - I developed an injury screening tool for the NITCP which can be used with basketballers of all ages.

BBC There is a myth that suggests that athletes, by wearing braces on or applying strapping tap to ankles and knees etc that these joints will become weaker and more prone to injury.  In your opinion, is there any truth to this myth and should athletes seriously consider strapping and braces as an injury prevention option?

BZ   There have been multiple studies into taping ankles and generally results have shown a reduction in athletic ability when wearing braces/strapping. Personally I would prefer for the athlete to complete their rehabilitation and return to sport without any brace/taping as it is not a viable long term solution - it is expensive, it reduces your performance potential and over time creates weakness. However  - when you have not recovered from an ankle sprain bracing/taping is the most effective way to prevent re-injury if you must play (e.g. Grand Final or big game, etc.).

BBC There appears to be more stress related injuries coming into the sport of basketball, including injuries like Shin Splints, Plantar fascitis, various stress fractures etc.  Do you have any ideas why this type of injury is becoming more prevalent over the past five years?

BZ   Shin splints/fractures, Plantar problems and Osteoitis Pubis are all overuse injuries. Today's players train harder and for longer hours than athletes in the past and hence we have more of these injuries occurring. However these injuries are easily prevented by physically screening athletes before commencing such vigorous programs. For example - insufficient core strength is the primary cause of osteoitis pubis and internally rotated hips/pronated feet/sacral and calf issues cause shin and plantar problems. These can be picked up by the assessment tool I have developed at Health Central.

BBC When you look at testing young athletes like you have done for the NITCP program, what as some of the key issues you and looking for and what is the benefit from finding out these issues?

BZ  The key issues we are assessing for are 'weak links' in the athletes body which may cause injury over the course of such an intense training schedule. We test core strength, nerve signal, muscle length and strength and proprioception. Players of all ages and abilities would benefit from such assessment. I encourage any coach reading this to get in touch with me at Health Central and organise some complimentary screening of their athletes.

BBC Flexibility seems to be lacking in most young athletes, how much responsibility lies with coaches in ensuring young athletes are suitably flexible and in your view how much time should a coach allocate to this issue?

BZ  Poor flexibility generally speaking comes from a lack of appropriate stretching - particularly stretching down. Recent studies have shown that stretching down is the single most important predictor of injury and prevents mackles shortening. I think coaches need to dedicate more time to stretching post training and post game - 30 seconds per muscle (1 minute per group).

BBC  There seems to be a great deal of advancement in injury rehabilitation and recovery in recent years particularly when you are seeing athletes recovering from major knee reconstruction in less than half the time previously expected.  What are your views on maximising recovery given that there is significant pressure in having the athlete back on the court as soon as possible and where do you believe coaches and players should draw the line?

BZ   Well the timelines keep changing. We keep getting better at post surgical rehabilitation. This year I have had post-knee arthroscope clients playing at Nationals 6 weeks post-op and playing well. I have had post-reconstruction ball players playing again at 8 weeks. The goal to maximising recovery is listening to your surgeon and your Occupational Therapist. We want to see you back on court as quick as possible too.

BBC   For young athletes who are still structurally developing and suffer from muscle and joint problem including knee soreness, what can be done to reduce this problem?

BZ  I would like to take this opportunity to dispel the myth of 'growing pains'. It's a fallacy. I have had so many adolescent ball players told by health professionals that their pain is 'growing pain'. If it was 'growing pain' I would not be able to change their symptoms because I cannot stop them growing!. It is almost always a lack of proper care for the body - be it poor stretching, poor nutrition or poor technique. Do not put up with it - see a soft tissue Occupational Therapist like myself straight away.

BBC If you had appropriate funding to establish something that would significantly reduce injuries for basketballers in Australia, what would you do?

BZ   The problems are access and education. I would love a government or privately funded agency which provided on-site assessment and treatment options for basketball clubs throughout junior to senior competitions. Whether they were tied to particular venues such as the new basketball stadium at Perry Lakes or a mobile service which was reimbursed for services rendered at multiple recreation centers around Australia. Also all coaching programs should include training on injury prevention and risk identification strategies.

That would solve the problem of access and education.

BBC There seems to be a trend for older elite athletes who become more susceptible to soft tissue injuries towards the end of their careers.  What should older athletes do to change their fitness programs to prevent soft tissue injuries?

BZ   Unfortunately there is no elixir of youth!  But look at the athletes who performed well past 30 - Jordan, Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson - they all were extremely dedicated to their body. They put just as much time into their physical preparation as their skills and game preparation.

As you get older your body gets less efficient at removing lactic acid, repairing muscle damage, strengthening your joints post trauma etc. Since supply becomes an issue you need to help out by reducing demand or giving your body more supplies - better nutrition, more time spent warming up effectively and stretching down, more time in the gym strengthening areas of weakness. It is all about creating healthy routines - at all ages.

BBC Basketball Crazy wishes to thank you for valuable opinion and for participating in this interview.  Readers will hopefully find your responses interesting and thought provoking to enable others to join you in the ongoing development of basketball in Australia. 

BZ    Thank you for the opportunity. I would like all Basketball Crazy readers to know they can reach me anytime with any injury queries, concerns or to arrange assessments at Health Central on 08 9201 0888 or via email - brettzani@healthcentral.com.au.


End of Interview