English not as handy as usual for MU men's basketball team

Monday, December 13, 2010 | 8:30 p.m. CST; updated 8:53 p.m. CST, Monday, December 13, 2010
Missouri junior guard Kim English goes up for a layup against Arkansas-Pine Bluff. English has been playing with a torn ligament in his right thumb and three jammed fingers on his left hand.

COLUMBIA ­— Kim English couldn't give you a strong high-five if he tried.

"His fingers are bothering him a little bit," Missouri men's basketball coach Mike Anderson said.

In fact, English's digits have been bothering him for a while. He is currently playing with four injured fingers. After tearing a ligament in his right thumb at a practice before Missouri's second exhibition game against Arkansas-Fort Smith, English then jammed three fingers on his left hand when he was fouled early in Missouri's overtime loss to Georgetown.

"It's really tough. My left hand was really tender, but my thumb is almost back to normal now," English said Monday afternoon before the Tigers began practice.

Then, on the baseline of Norm Stewart Court, the junior guard gave interested reporters a show-and-tell style look at his two taped hands.

"I've got a pretty funky tape job that prevents my fingers from going back like this," he said.

The padded and taped contraption starts at English's left wrist. A thick layer of sticky, white athletic tape is wrapped snugly around the base of his left hand. It holds in place a curved pad that runs down into his palm, conforming to the arc of his hand. The end of the pad is secured by more tape, this time woven between every finger except his thumb. To demonstrate the way it works, he gently uses his right hand to apply pressure to the fingertips of his left, demonstrating the tension the tape creates.

Significantly less tape resides on English's right hand.

Two thin strips of the same athletic tape wrap around an unusually plump thumb.

"Yeah, it's really swollen, but it's not bad," English said.

One of the strips is wrapped at the bottom of the thumb, and another just below his fingernail. The strips are joined by a third, thinner piece that loops around the side of the swollen finger. Together, the tape creates a miniature straightjacket for the thumb.

"This tape job prevents my thumb from turning that way, the way it bends." English said.

At first glance, the left hand looks more painful than its counterpart. But, during games, English wears no padding on his non-dominant hand. Before tipoff, English goes through a variety of techniques to prepare.

"For my left hand I take painkillers, and whirlpool it before the game, stretch it out before the game, and massage it before the game," English said.

The only finger that remains taped for games is his right thumb.

According to Missouri assistant coach Matt Zimmerman, finger injuries and sprained ankles are common injuries for basketball players.

He said that out of the 13 players on the team roster, probably seven or eight have some sort of jammed finger. English's jammed right thumb, however, is in a particularly bad spot.

"Jammed fingers are bad. Probably the worst finger jam is your right thumb for a right-handed basketball player," Zimmerman said.

Because basketball players use their hands so much, finger injuries are likely to keep popping up throughout the season.

"Injuries like that, they can linger for a long time," Zimmerman said.

"It's probably going to bother him in January and February," Zimmerman said. "All you got to do is get hit again, and it's messed up for another four or five days. Jammed fingers in basketball linger and linger and linger."

It is this lingering pain that has resulted in English trying to find different ways to make an impact in Missouri's games. He said he has focused more on passing and taking charges.

"In his credit, he's tried to do a lot of other things," Zimmerman said.

"He's tried to be more passive. He's tried to get more people in the rhythm of things. He's not been killing the ball trying to dribble it too much, because he's banged up a little bit."

But, on Monday, English said the fingers were feeling better day-by-day.

"It was really difficult to catch the ball. Now they're getting better," he said.

"I tape them up every practice and try to prevent further injury. Each day it doesn't get hit, it gets that much better. It felt great on Saturday," he said. On Saturday, English scored 14 points in Missouri's 70-55 win over Presbyterian.

Zimmerman, on the other hand, had some ideas more creative than simple athletic tape.

"We almost had to put some mittens on him, let him play with some soft mittens," Zimmerman said.

Or, perhaps a more sports-appropriate fix.

"Let him play with a couple catchers' mitts out there."

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