Tuesday, May 16, 2006

The Cut of Death

There has been a bit of talk on Al's blog about the injury that he sustained while making a dump cut up the line. A poaching defender made contact with him as he was going for the disc.

I am calling this cut, which has resulted in some of the worst injuries I have seen, "The Cut of Death".

The cut, which results in the the dump cutter cutting up the line and looking away from the field, can result in very dangerous poaching opportunities from defenders in the stack. Pretty much the centerpiece of concern about this cut (and the poach D) has to be Isaiah's injury in the 2003 NE College Regional Final. He was in the dump position and made the cut to the goal for the short forhand. As the disc went up, a defender poached, there was contact, and both players went to the ground. As they crashed to the ground, I heard a funny sound...it sounded like a gunshot. Then I heard Isaiah cry out in pain as he held his leg up in the air. My first thought was "Boy, that is a weird place for a knee to be". I then realized that the sound I heard was his leg breaking, and his "weird knee" was actually his leg bone sticking out of his leg.

After witnessing this, I coach my girls to use extreme caution when cutting up the line, and I will actually discourage The Cut of Death unless it is clear that the poach opportunities have been minimized. It seems pretty clear to me that the cut and pass become more dangerous when a) it is a forehand pass up the line, b) the angle of the cutter is vertical away from the thrower, and c) the pass is longer than just a few yards.

As it is difficult to throw a 5-7 yard flick with touch, many times this pass ends up being more of a leading pass as the thrower tries to get enough rotation to make the flight stable. I specifically work on the very short forehand throws with my girls to make sure that they can control them at short distances.

While an up the line pass to the dump is an aggressive and necessary part of an offense, I try to work with my girls on having the dump cut up the line not be too vertical as the resulting leading pass is in the air long enough for a defender to make a play from the stack.

I find myself on the sideline yelling "careful!!" many times when I see the dump go up the sideline for a leading pass. We also spend time working on stack discipline to make sure that the stack is out of the way enough to avoid poaches, and, conversly, to recognioze that when the stack does creep toward the open side that it is actually more of an advantage to dump and swing to the other side.


Jim Biancolo said...

That is exactly the cut that knocked me out of Nationals last year. Forehand up the line, floated slightly, defender poached in, first sprained ankle sustained while wearing ankle braces in 17 years. Coincidentally working on an ankle braces post now, as I'm researching new ones...

Wicks said...

On the play where Isaiah got hurt, he was actually the defender (I am sure of that - the rest is just to the best of my recollection). Isaiah poached and then slowed up, more or less planting his foot. The cutter dove and caught the disc, just as his body was crashing into Isaiah's planted leg. The impact of the body on the planted leg caused the leg to crack as you describe. It was pretty awful.

That having been said, I have seen a lot more injuries when the player did NOT pull up - this may have been the only case where I saw the defender injured due to not making the bid.

LittleOrphanAnnie44 said...

How is Zay doing these days?

pgw said...

In a lot of situations I think it would be more accurate to describe it as the "throw of death." The thrower is the person in the best position to see whether danger will ensue. It is pretty unlikely that a nasty collision will happen unless the throw is actually made -- which it shouldn't be (for reasons of both safety and good offense) if there is a poacher flying in from the blind side. Too often, though, the thrower -- who has turned away from the downfield area to look at the dump -- doesn't pay enough attention to the space he's throwing into, only noticing that the cutter has burned his man. This can have disastrous consequences both for the teammate he has hung out to dry as well as his team's chances of maintaining possession.

gcooke said...


Wow. I can't believe my memory got that wrong, but you are correct....it was how you describe.

From my vantage point at the end of the end zone Brown was attacking, I couldn't see Isaiah plant his leg like you describe.

Isaiah is fine. I had the pleasure of working with him at NUTC last summer, and I understand he will be on the staff again this year.


degs said...

yeah, we called that the Widowmaker cut. I guess that name might not be taken so kindly on a women's team....

gcooke said...


Good point. Maybe it should be called "the play of death".


So...do other players or teams specifically address this situation? Do teams try to avoid getting themselves into the play of death?

gcooke said...


So did you guys try to avoid the widowmaker?


_dusty_ said...

If the dump sets up the cut farther away from the thrower, he can get a better angle on the cut, which helps the thrower a lot.

First, since the dump isn't running directly up the line, the throw is much easier and doesn't have to be a laser to a precise spot.

Secondly, if dump sets his cut up more towards the middle of the field, the thrower is forced to look more towards the middle of the field where any potential poachers will come from. If the thrower sees a poacher coming, he fakes the up-line throw and the receiver who's being poached can rotate around to catch an uncontested dump.

As the dump, it's your responsibility to make a good cut so that you can see the disc and the spot you are running to at the same time. Not looking where you're going is a prescription for disaster in this (or any) situation.

A good up-the-line cut often leads to an unmarked huck, so it can be a potent offensive weapon when implemented correctly. When sloppily executed, it will lead to a plethora of turnovers and injuries. I think the key to making this cut successfully is starting the cut at least 10 yards (laterally) from the thrower.

gcooke said...


I think these are excellent comments and a prudent way to balance safety vs the opprtunity that the up the line cut provides.



degs said...

Unfortunately not. I saw a bad injury my soph year when our biggest guy ran it and the defender, Thor (Indiana's biggest guy), made a play on it. Nothing like Isaiah's injury, but play stopped, etc.

Bad offenses, esp in college, or rosters that are handler-heavy (as we were), I think are more prone to it. In fact we ran it a LOT my junior year in a couple games. If the stack is deep enough it can be okay ... but not always.

Wicks said...

Memory is the 2nd thing to go when you get old.
I don't remember the 1st.

LittleOrphanAnnie44 said...

"Wicks said...
Memory is the 2nd thing to go when you get old.
I don't remember the 1st.' "

The 1st would be your spot on DoG.

Ways of dealing witht the Cut of Death:

1) Offensively, abandon this cut.
- I don't see how this can work. How can one cut effectively to get open for the dump if the defense should not expect a cut up the line?

2) Defensively, exercise extreme caution in making poach D's against the Cut of Death.
- Again, you're leaving this cut way too open. The best the defender can do is to ensure that the mark is on so as to prevent the upline cutter from getting into a power position.

gcooke said...


What were we talking about?

I agree with LOA that we cannot give up this cut nor ask the D to not poach.

Again, Dusty's points seemed to offer some good points about to manage this cut in a safe way.


Wicks said...

I wrote:
Memory is the 2nd thing to go when you get old.
I don't remember the 1st."
Annie wrote:
"The 1st would be your spot on DoG."

I don't even know what that means. Do you know what you are talking about?

gapoole said...

Isn't this the same cut they were teaching as the "correct" dump cut at NUTC? I tried drilling it into my high school team, and it has been very effective when done properly. I think that pulling the stack away from the handler, possibly by angling the stack, makes the poach unreasonable. No question, the cut is valuable--laying out and skying are potentially dangerous, but nobody clamors for them to be phased out. People just have to know how to do it safely.

gcooke said...


No, this is not specifically taught as the "correct" dump at NUTC. At NUTC, the goal is to try to teach the "away" dump, meaning that the dump cuts away from the line toward the middle of the field and the thrower puts it out into space....thus making it possible for the dump to put their bosy between the disc and their D and, more importantly, making the swing pass easier.

As you say, though, this is an effective play, and NUTC does not actively discourage the cut. The principles you mention do go a long way toward making the cut safe.

gapoole said...

I remember, though, that the counselors would tell us to fake up the line first, and make the fake a viable dump option (otherwise, the defender would anticipate the cut coming back into space the way you describe).

In any case, I mainly posted to say hello. We talked a bit during my stay at NUTC, and I thought I'd reestablish contact. I liked some of the songs you put out on iCompisitions, by the way--I remember "gonna set them pins down" from the camp talent show.

gcooke said...


Thanks for commenting, and thanks for listening to my tunes. I appreciate it. I had a chance to look at your blog and I think your offering of a perspective on transitioning from high school to college will be quite interesting.

I thought a bit more about my response to your initial comment, and I realized that BVH specifically talked about the "line" that a dump cutter should follow. The "line" is either a cut up field (the cut of death) or back toward mid-field (as I described in my initial response).

There is no question that, as you point out, that a dump cut up the line is not only an important weapon for the "power position" that results, but also, as you describe, it is important to have the defender respect this cut thereby creating some space for the "normal" dump cut.

I think the point of my post (I don't think you are disagreeing with this) was never to discourage or to say that the cut of death should not happen. It was to raise awareness on specific safety concerns, and to try to show that, with specific awareness toward things like stack discipline and the angle of the cut, there are things that a team can do to make the cut of death an effective and safe option.


gapoole said...

agreed =]