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Rui Hachimura returns to Wizards practice: how do players condition themselves toward a return to play?

He participated in a full practice yesterday with the Wizards. And we asked Dr. Lucas Wymore about how players can gain weight and continue to play effectively, given that there were reports that Hachimura lost weight when he reported to the Wizards.

Indiana Pacers v Washington Wizards
Rui Hachimura has made a significant step forward his return this season.
Photo by Will Newton/Getty Images

Washington Wizards forward Rui Hachimura made one more step to get closer to his return for the team, where he was a full participant in practice yesterday at the MedStar Health Performance Center. According to Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington, he did not participate in a live scrimmage or contact but had a hot shooting hand.

And here’s the proof.

Unlike someone like Thomas Bryant (knee) or Washington Mystics forward Elena Delle Donne (back), Hachimura did not have a physical injury. So why are the Wizards taking (possibly too much) time to get him back on the court?

The Monumental Basketball athlete care team, including the newly-extended Daniel Medina, will probably not say more than something like “it’s all part of the plan and Rui is making progress.” But we can get more context of the relationship between doctors and coaching staffs by reaching to other sports medicine experts.

When I spoke to Dr. Lucas Wymore, orthopedic surgeon and sports medicine specialist of the Centers for Advanced Orthopaedics in Southern Maryland about Delle Donne’s back injury last week, I also asked him a question on Hachimura. This is because Hachimura would soon play for the Wizards later in the regular season. While Hachimura may have arrived in D.C. in great physical shape, reports noted that he lost weight and wasn’t ready to play. What causes players in their 20s, like Hachimura to lose weight and what’s the difference between great shape individually and “game shape?”

“Players naturally have weight fluctuations in weight depending on conditioning,” Dr. Wymore said. “If they are intentionally trying to lose weight while they are going up and down the court, their approach will be different than a player who is trying to keep or gain mass which is likely the case in your question.

And while losing weight between the Olympics and the NBA season may have given the Wizards cause to pause, Dr. Wymore said “heavier isn’t always better, depending on what the coaching staff is looking for from players in Hachimura’s role.”

At this point, I felt that Dr. Wymore was saying perhaps Hachimura should have lost weight anyway. But he went on to elaborate on how weight gain should be.

“Ideally a player gains lean muscle. He wants to gain weight in a way that should be more functional like when he is positioning himself for rebounds or posting up. Players shouldn’t just carry extra weight up and down the court. In addition to being a little bit slower in most cases, weight gain puts more stress across the joints.”

As players gain weight, they also have to work closely with strength and conditioning coaches and coaching staff. Dr. Wymore also gave a detailed response on how that works over the course of an NBA season for any player who is gaining weight and trying to keep it.

“The strength and conditioning program for a team helps players achieve their weight gain goals. But they also want these players to maintain good joint flexibility. Weight gain causes some loss of range of motion of the joints. At the same time, the players are continuing to work on some of their core strengths and things that will help support them over the course of an 82 game regular season. If one wants to make sure you kind of maintain some of that core strength and stability in addition to you’re putting on the plain weight, AND playing effectively during practices and games, that is where it is important to be in “game shape.” It is the balance of all these things.”

Let us know your thoughts on Hachimura’s return to practice below. And thanks again to Dr. Wymore for his expertise on sports medicine.

Disclaimer: The answers Dr. Wymore gave should be considered as general trends among people in a similar situation as Hachimura’s, and are not to be taken as medical advice. They are also not an indication of what Hachimura has experienced or is experiencing right now. Please consult your specific doctor for your specific situation.