When Lakers rookie forward Julius Randle suffered a broken leg in his NBA debut, most believed it was just a freak accident. Dr. Cate Shanahan, the director of the Lakers PRO Nutrition Program, has a different view.
“He just didn’t have enough dairy in his life,” Shanahan said.
It’s not an issue that she believes is exclusive to Randle.
From the broken leg suffered by Indiana Pacers forward Paul George in August to the broken leg that Louisville guard Kevin Ware suffered in the 2013 NCAA tournament, Shanahan believes there’s a dangerous trend, one that she said she predicted would happen a few years ago.
“From my perspective, there’s an epidemic of bone health problems in pro sports because guys are drinking soda instead of milk,” Shanahan said. “They’re just not getting enough calcium.”
She said she has calculated that some players are only getting 25 to 30 percent of the recommended daily calcium intake. (Webmd.com recommends that adult males between 19 and 50 take 1,000 milligrams of calcium on a daily basis.)
But she also stressed that taking calcium pills isn’t enough to help strengthen bones. “We’re not designed to eat pills,” she said.
Shanahan said a key issue is the stigma surrounding dairy products.
“The big thing you get from dieticians is you have to worry about fat,” she said. “Dieticians are obsessed with calories. For some reason, they’re more obsessed about fat calories than sugar calories.”
That notion has largely carried over into the world of professional sports, she said. The end result, she said, is more catastrophic leg injuries from something as innocuous as a misplaced landing, such as what happened to George.
“It’s more what you’d expect when somebody is hit by a car versus when somebody is landing wrong,” she said.
Randle’s injury was even more perplexing to her.
“According to what I saw [with Randle], it wasn’t even the landing,” she said. “The problem started on takeoff. It looked to me like he twisted his leg when he broke off the ground.”
Regardless, Shanahan said the Lakers don’t look at dairy in a negative light. They serve players grass-fed cheese and Kobe Bryant drinks a low-sugar chocolate milk after games specially prepared by Whole Foods.
“We promote dairy,” Shanahan said. “We try to downplay the role of soda and even energy drinks.”