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Ball Don't Lie

Mickael Gelabale cut off his dreadlocks for health reasons

Eric Freeman
Ball Don't Lie

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Mickael Gelabale in hairier times (Doug Pensinger/ Getty).

The NBA has had some uncommon hairstyles in his time — remember Scot Pollard, everyone? — but sometimes those new 'dos end up coming perfectly standard basketball looks. For instance, when players first started sporting dreadlocks, fans were taken aback by something they were most familiar with via their well-played copies of Bob Marley's "Legend." Now it's no big deal.

But perhaps we have been ignoring a real problem. Minnesota Timberwolves forward Mickael Gelabale, now back in the NBA after four seasons in Europe, sported dreadlocks as a member of the Seattle SuperSonics from 2006 to 2008. Now his locks are shorn.

It wasn't an aesthetic choice, though, because the hair apparently threatened Gelabale's health. From a cleaned-up Google translation of the Spanish sports publication Marca (via TBJ):

In the last two seasons, Gelabale suffered constant muscle injuries because of his famous look. The weight of the dreadlocks can cause bad posture, which can generate injuries. They can even alter the way a person runs. Experts believe this hairstyle can be harmful. Not in the short run, but over a long period of time.

The explanation is simple. Wearing this hairstyle for years could have changed Gelabale's center of gravity. When hair is pulled back, the player must correct the displacement by working neck muscles. Over time, this unnatural gesture degenerates into continuous ailments.

It is not the first something like this has happened. French National Team teammate Joakim Noah was advised by Bulls doctors to cut his hair. The rebellious center refused to lose his ponytail, one of his hallmarks. In Chicago they have put the hair on shirts. […]

Athletes, of course, can wear their hair as they wish, but they must be prepared. It requires large muscles in the upper body and strong legs to bear the burden of the hair without harming their necks.

Here's Gelabale's current look with the Wolves. As you can see, it's quite a bit more streamlined, though not exactly short:

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Mickael Gelabale no longer strains his neck muscles with hair (Kevin C. Cox/ Getty).

If you have difficulty reading poor translations, the idea here is that Gelabale's hair weighed too much and caused the muscles in his neck and shoulders to overcompensate, thereby creating problems in the rest of his body, as well. This situation might sound odd, but it's actually in keeping with the philosophies practiced by some of the best training staffs in the NBA. A slight problem in one area of the body can have wide-ranging consequences.

The difference here, of course, is that we're talking about heavy hair, not a sprained ankle. It's an odd thing to consider, even if it makes medical sense. We're just not used to considering hair as a medical hazard. If this news spreads, perhaps dreads will fall back out of style.

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