If actors Matt Damon and Ben Affleck need medical science to back them up on Deflategate, they’ve got it.
Orthopedic surgeons who treat pro athletes, including one who is a former New England Patriots ball boy, are weighing in on Deflategate, saying the controversy is overblown because, clinically speaking, a deflated ball has little impact on an athlete’s performance for most of the NFL quarterbacks.
“Even with a slightly deflated ball, if you’ve got a guy with great talent, good mechanical skills, strong shoulders (rotator cuff) and strong grip strength, a 1-1.5 pound difference in the ball would make little or no difference in field performance,” says Izzy Silva, M.D., from Healthpointe, an Orange County sports medicine clinic who has treated many professional athletes including NFL quarterbacks.
Silva says if this Deflategate controversy involved a league with short players with small hands—in other words, not the prototypical NFL player—then he says there might be something. But, he says, that is clearly not the case here.
He says the issue with Deflategate comes down to grip and the impact a deflated ball would have on an NFL quarterback, in this case Tom Brady, who is 37.
According to the American Medical Assoc., the average grip strength for a man aged 30-39 is 48.5 kg or 106.9 pounds.
Silva says pro athletes typically have a grip strength that’s 150-200-percent greater than the average man.
Hand size, Silva says, also plays a huge role for athletes, as noted in an ESPN article from earlier this year when ESPN interviewed Scott Pioli, former New England Patriots vice president of player personnel and current Atlanta Falcons assistant GM, well before anyone was talking Deflategate.
Pioli said larger hands help quarterbacks grip the ball better. And he offered up some 411 about Brady’s grip in particular.
“You have someone like Tom Brady… who has an enormous hand,” he told ESPN. “You look at the pictures of Tommy holding a football, part of his accuracy is based on his hand size.
“So things like that, in terms of measurements, they have value.”
And that value says Neil Katz, M.D., the former New England Patriots ball boy and now a Los Angeles sports medicine physician at Healthpointe, who has also treated many professional athletes, says what makes the difference. Not, he says, how much air is in the ball, regardless of the Deflategate perpetuators keep saying. Hand size, as well as rotator cuff and shoulder strength and athleticism are the key.
“Tom Brady’s hand is so big, that a small amount of air missing makes has virtually no impact on his performance. It’s just inconsequential on the impact on the game,” Katz said. “Deflategate, from a medical standpoint, is just full of hot air as far as I’m concerned.”