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TherapySpark

Inside the NBA Bubble: BTE Eccentron is Essential to Players’ Performance

During the final weeks of the 2019-2020 season, I sat down with Houston Rockets Assistant Athletic Trainer, Motoki Fuji, to get the inside story on athletic training in the NBA Bubble. According to Fuji, the BTE Eccentron is one of the few pieces of training equipment that made the cut for inclusion in the Houston Rockets’ Bubble setup. One player in particular (we can’t say who, but he’s a key player for the team 😉) says he won’t play without it.

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“The eccentric component is huge for NBA players because they’re so explosive. [In basketball] many injuries occur in the eccentric phase during deceleration, so the Eccentron is for both performance and injury reduction.”  – Motoki Fuji, ATC. Assistant Athletic Trainer, Houston Rockets

Making it to the NBA Bubble

The NBA “Bubble” is a designated zone in Orlando, FL where the NBA is temporarily hosting players, coaches, and trainers in isolation. Games are held inside the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex. NBA personnel live, train, and work at specific hotels in the area. They’ve taken this measure to prevent the spread of COVID-19 while still playing and broadcasting the final games of the 2019-2020 season.

The Rockets’ decision to bring the Eccentron to the 2020 Bubble is a significant one. For starters, they have limited space in their new hotel-based training rooms. I’m told they have some access to the hotel weight room and use a few smaller pieces of equipment like dumbbells and kettle bells.

But nothing like the loading capabilities of the Eccentron. With the high capacity for eccentric-only loading, the players are able to exercise safely under heavy loads – even more weight than with a concentric leg press.

Heavy-load, hands-off strengthening and conditioning

The Eccentron is an eccentric-only, closed kinetic chain system. Meaning that instead of pushing the pedals away, the user resists as the pedals are pushed towards them.  The user tries to slow the pedals down, lengthening their lower extremity muscles under a variable load. The system can accommodate just about any strength level, from injured people loading just a fraction of their body weight, to high-performance athletes building strength and control.

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“Having a machine that can load them up to 400lbs in the athletic training room that we’ve built has been huge for us,” says Fuji

Fuji says Eccentron’s heavy loading and simplicity makes it a favorite among athletic trainers. It’s easy to get the athletes started with an exercise, and they can continue independently without constant oversight or instruction. It is effective for the athletes, easy for the athletic trainers, and saves time during this condensed schedule.

Injury prevention and recovery with eccentrics

According to Fuji, the Eccentron helps prevent injuries by emphasizing eccentric loading on the lower extremities. “Being able to do the heavy loading to build the bone, joint, and tendon resiliency has been very beneficial,” says Fuji. By strengthening the glutes, hamstrings, and quads with heavy eccentric contractions, you bolster the entire lower extremity and prevent injuries.

“The eccentric component is huge for NBA players because they’re so explosive. Many injuries occur in the eccentric phase during deceleration, so the Eccentron is for both performance and injury reduction,” says Fuji.

The Rockets have experienced the effectiveness of the Eccentron in helping athletes recover from mild to moderate injuries like tendon strains and ankle sprains.

He even recommends it for players with weakened knees or ankles, thanks to the loading capacity that can lower down to a fraction of the athlete’s body weight. “It lets you lengthen the tissue while loading. Even guys with knee tendinosis or jumper’s knee can to load the joint without harming it and help strengthen the contractile tissues.”

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Beyond the training room

After experiencing the Eccentron with the Rockets, a handful of NBA players have purchased one for their homes. They don’t want to miss out on all the strengthening and conditioning benefits of the Eccentron.

These players maintain their lower extremity strength with the Eccentron during the offseason and any time they’re away from the Houston training facility. It not only increases strength in the hamstrings, glutes and quads, but also improves motor control and proprioception. In fact, it improves the one anonymous key player’s proprioception so much, that the Rockets consider it essential to their training.

The Rockets’ training regimen 

The Eccentron is a vital part of the Rockets’ strengthening and conditioning. They occasionally even use it in conjunction with blood flow restriction, or BFR. In the 2014-2015 season, Dwight Howard recovered from a knee injury using the Eccentron and BFR. Watch this video for details about his recovery process

Fuji says the Eccentron is sometimes used as the final step in a training session. After soft tissue work, joint mobilization, functional movement, and proprioception training, the Eccentron “is a good topper for both mobility and stability. Using heavy loaded contractile factors with the eccentric component ties it all together.”

Get the eccentric strengthening and conditioning e-book

Eccentric exercise with Eccentron is a game changer for athletes in just about any sport – from basketball to football, soccer, and more. Catch up with today’s leaders in professional and collegiate athletic training. Get the e-book, ACL Recovery Unlocked with Eccentric Strengthening and Motor Control. You’ll get new EMG research, ACL case studies, pro tips from Ron Courson, UGA Director of Sports Medicine, and more!


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Colleen Isaiah
TherapySpark Editor
BTE