For several seasons, the Chicago Bulls have been one of the more elite teams in the NBA. Consistently competitive, Chicago has earned respect and acknowledgment around the league for being one of the toughest matchups on everyone’s schedule.
However, the Bulls toughest opponent has been the injury bug that has indiscriminately bitten every key player on the roster. From Carlos Boozer’s finger, Luol Deng’s annual head-to-toe ailments, Joakim Noah’s feet and of course, Derrick Rose’s knee. Wearing a Bulls uniform, it would seem that no player is safe from getting hurt at any given point in a season.
Obviously, this isn’t just exclusive to the Bulls as every team in the NBA has the same issues, but it has been a recurring theme and now the organization has taken the big step from being reactive to proactive.
Enter Jennifer Swanson.
The newly named Director of Sports Performance began her tenure with the Bulls on Aug. 26 and comes to the Bulls after five years at Athletes’ Performance in Los Angeles – where D. Rose did much of his knee rehab – as the Performance Physical Therapy Manager.
“Jen brings an incredible set of credentials to the table as far as her education, knowledge, skill level, ability and experience in dealing with a number of pro athletes working at Athletes’ Performance, which is one of the top facilities in the country,” said Bulls General Manager Gar Forman to Bulls.com in a recent interview.
Swanson’s first order of business with the team was to implement a training program that focuses on and targets the needs of each individual player as opposed to a broad program for the entire team.
“The training program will consist of a basketball and athlete specific prescription, integrating rehabilitation, performance training, skill development, nutrition and recovery into a customized individual plan to help athletes reach their peak performance,” Forman explained.
“Jen will be responsible for overseeing the athletic training and strength and conditioning departments, as well as massage therapy, chiropractic care, nutritional support, and any related auxiliary services,” Forman continued. “In addition to this, she will work to streamline communication with doctors, agents, and skill coaches to provide an optimal training environment for our athletes to succeed.”
As for Swanson, despite her many years of expertise, she understand that there is one key component to working with athletes, especially ones that may not be all that familiar with her level of experience.
“It takes a lot for an athlete to give you their trust,” said Swanson. “It’s a matter of trying to understand where they’re coming from, what their issues are, and educating them as to what you’re finding and how you’re trying to help them. It’s an important bond that needs to be worked on continuously.”