Wizards' Dr. Daniel Medina brings new approach to supporting NBA players

Quinton Mayo

This article is a part of HeadStrong: Mental Health and Sports, NBC Sports multi-platform initiative on mental health and men's health. NBC Sports Washington will be releasing a series of original short-form features that are all available at nbcsportswashington.com/headstrong

The 2019 NBA offseason was unexpectedly action-packed for the Washington Wizards organization. Not because two of the league's top players decided to join forces in Capital One Arena. Not because of some blockbuster trade to send a freakishly good, unibrowed unicorn to the nation's capital. But because Wizards' owner Ted Leonsis decided to do something with his front office that is extremely uncommon in the Association: put together a collection of high IQ, basketball, health, and finance aficionados under an umbrella known as "Monumental Basketball."

The "brain trust" consists of Tommy Sheppard (basketball operations), Sashi Brown (planning and operations), John Thompson III (vice president of player development and engagement), and lastly Dr. Daniel Medina (athlete care and performance).

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Dr. Medina brings more than a decade of experience working with FC Barcelona, to the Wizards' training facility. He oversaw the health of around 2,000 athletes during his time at Barcelona, including that of Lionel Messi, Neymar, and Ronaldinho. Whether it's managing the health of the world's top futbol or basketball players, Dr. Medina knows that at the end of the day they're all humans just like us and they should be treated with the same delicacy and care.

"Under the skin of a professional athlete is just a normal person who suffers from family issues, from existential issues, the things that we all struggle with as humans," Medina said. "We're providing all the resources and tools so we can one, prevent them, second, have an early detection, and third, treat them and help them cope with those situations like we do with the normal population."

In a time when something "trending" isn't always the best thing, a new trend in the NBA has been athletes speaking up on behalf of their mental health struggles as well as detailing how they've sought help to overcome them. Former Raptor, now Spurs guard, DeMar DeRozan opened up about his mental struggles prior to the 2018 NBA All-Star game, with the seven-word tweet "This depression got the best of me…" Soon after, DeRozan completed an interview published in the Toronto Star detailing his lifelong battle with anxiety and depression, hoping that his willingness to share might "help others feel less alone." Kevin Love, Keyon Dooling, and Metta World Peace are some other NBA players who've divulged personal battles in hopes to encourage others.

Another "trending" topic in the NBA has been the issue of load management - high profile players resting in the regular season in preparation for postseason play. While a lot of NBA talking heads view this as unethical or a disgrace, Dr. Medina views load management in a completely different vacuum.

"Load management, the way we view it, is everything," Medina said. "It's the way we practice, how much time we spend in the gym, how much you rest, to have a less intensity practice or a more intensity practice?"

That subtle diagnosis of a league-wide phenomenon is exactly why Dr. Medina was brought into the Wizards organization -  a deeper, yet a simplistic method to help the players perform on the court, but succeed off of it.   

Wizards' Dr. Daniel Medina brings new approach to supporting NBA players originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

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