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Biomechanics Expert Is Concerned About Mark Sanchez's Health

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Some people in sports have told me that biomechanics will be to this decade what advanced statistical analysis was to the last. As you likely know, advanced stats have recently become popular as teams have looked to define value as accurately as possible. As you might not know, the field of biomechanics deals with making sure athletes use the proper technique and preparation to enhance their athletic potential and avoid injuries. The first helps teams make prudent investments. The second helps teams maximize the value of these investments.

Zig Ziegler is a sports kinesiologist, a biomechanics expert. As a top sports kinesiologist, Mr. Ziegler's efforts have helped more than two dozen NFL players overcome serious injuries to stay on the field including three time Super Bowl Champion Derek LoVille, 12 year NFL veterans Chris Oldham of the Pittsburg Steelers and New Orleans Saints, and NFC champion Chris Walsh of the Minnesota Vikings, journeyman NFL Quarterback Stoney Case, and all-Pro Linebacker Seth Joyner. Some other athletes Mr. Ziegler has advised post-injury include,Canadian Olympic team member and National Pro Fastpitch Co-Pitcher of the Year Lauren Bay, MLB NL Rookie of the Year Jason Bay, 2006 MLB NL Rookie of the year and 2008 NL MVP–Ryan Howard, future MLB Hall of Fame Pitcher, Johan Santana, Future NBA Hall of Fame center, Shaquille O’Neal, and oft injured Trailblazers’ center Greg Oden and his Trailblazer teammates.

He was kind enough to take a look at Mark Sanchez for GGN and give us his thoughts.

Read them below the jump.

As one of the top quarterbacks in the NCAA at USC, Sanchez suffered a career threatening injury to his patella tendon in 2008.  While the injury on the surface does not seem garner as much attention as the dreaded torn ACL, it actually can be significantly more difficult to recover from. This is due to the direct relationship between the patella tendon and the quadriceps muscle group of the thigh. The patella tendon attaches the major muscles of the quadriceps to the lower leg (tibia).  This connection provides stability to the knee and assists the muscle in moving the lower leg.


Typically, an injury to the patella (also know as the knee cap) and patella tendon occurs in the form of either a partial or complete rupture (tear) or a subluxation or dislocation of the joint.  A tear might be easier to recover from because the typical mechanism of the injury is related to over use.  However, the subluxation or dislocation is typically related to rotation of the patella to a position where the tendon no longer is "in-line" with the patella. 


Sanchez, apparently never fully recovered from his patella tendon/knee injury at USC.  As a result, in February of 2010, Sanchez underwent surgery on the left knee to repair the patella tendon, which was deemed necessary by team physicians.  An injury of this nature to a player like Sanchez does more than limit his mobility as we might assume.  As a quarterback, Sanchez relys on the knee to make him agile in the pocket.  But more importantly, as a right-handed quarterback, the left knee is the joint that provides stability as he throws the ball.  It also, must absorb rotational forces initiated when the quarterback firmly plants his left foot and initiates the throw. 


In an evaluation of Sanchez throwing mechanics in video from 2010, 2009, and 2008, his mechanics show a poorly planting left foot and extreme extension of the left knee during delivery. 

This is a subconscious compensation or adjustment Sanchez has made to reduce the rotational force on this knee which could cause another (more severe) left knee injury.  In, addition, Sanchez risk of injury includes possible ACL injuries to both knees and possible lower back pain. As a result of his compensation, Sanchez has a tendancy to deliver the ball with a more pronounced vertical movement of his throwing arm during delivery. This is more noticable on balls thrown deep to the right as it will cause balls to the right to sail higher than expected.  This can lead to more incompletions when throwing to the right or worse, more interceptions in that direction.


When throwing to the left, Sanchez more than likely will demonstrate balls which appear to lead the receiver in that direction because he is more likely to have natural rotation of his body increase.  (Please understand that this flaw also can lead to incompletions as Sanchez may still be off target from where his throw was intended.) Until Sanchez works to increase the rotational stability of his left knee, he will continue to struggle in and out of the pocket with mobility and accuracy.  Just as importantly, Sanchez will continue to struggle with confidence as he fails to achieve the success he was accustomed to in his early days at USC. 


My number one exercise for Sanchez? Well, there are three I would recommend:


1) Medicine ball Rotational Twist to the left side


2) Single leg Hamstring curls on both legs with an emphasis on the left leg.  (Hey Mark, be sure to focus on doing these in the prone position and keep your glutes tight so you don’t arch your back.)


3)  Increase left ankle mobility with manual therapy.

I can't help but wonder whether this might be contributing to Mark's sometimes suspect accuracy.


Part of me feels like almost any football player would have some disturbing sign. It is a physical game where everybody gets banged up. I'm not sure I would necessarily sound any alarm bells. I do hope, however, the Jets are open to new ways to thinking because it can minimize risk and maximize performance.


I find this very interesting, and we are likely to hear from Mr. Ziegler about other players on the roster in the future.