March Madness: Taking Preventative Measures Against Basketball Injuries

Originally, basketball was a noncontact sport, but the nature of the game has seen some significant changes over the years. It has evolved into a physical sport where contact is accepted and expected. Coaches now teach players contact moves, and players use their bodies to gain advantage. They use their elbows and arms to fight off defenders and draw contact in the air while shooting. Without a doubt, this evolution has led to a higher number of injuries for both amateurs and professionals who engage in this sport. It is estimated that 1.6 million injuries per year are related to playing basketball.

Common Injury Patterns in the NBA

According to Sports Health, a 17-year study was done to identify injuries and medical conditions affecting athletes competing in the NBA. Injury information was reported by each team’s athletic trainer. Reported injuries were those resulting in a practice or game being missed, physician referral and emergency care.

With 1,094 players in the study, the most frequent orthopedic injury was lateral ankle sprains at 13.2 percent. Patellofemoral inflammation followed at 11.9 percent, lumbar strains at 7.9 percent and hamstring strains at 3.3 percent. The most games missed were related to patellofemoral inflammation followed by lateral ankle sprains, knee sprains, and lumbar sprains. There was no relationship of injury due to NBA experience, weight, height or age. The conclusion of this epidemiological study was that players had a high rate of game-related injuries, patellofemoral inflammation was the highest injury in days lost and ankle sprains were the most common.

How Basketball Sports Injuries can be Prevented

Many sports medicine specialists feel that a majority of basketball sports injuries can be prevented by taking effective steps. The following list includes smart strategies:

  • Pre-season physical exams and following physician recommendations.
  • Hydrating frequently and adequately.
  • Staying in tune with environmental conditions, such as humid and hot weather to avoid heat illness.
  • Since athlete injury rates are higher when not physically prepared, maintaining proper fitness is recommended.
  • Using activities such as strength training, aerobic conditioning and agility training after a period of inactivity.
  • Avoid overuse by taking off one season a year and listening to physical warnings of discomfort and pain while training.
  • Incorporating training principles into team warm-ups and initiating an injury prevention program.
  • Only returning to game play when a health care professional has given clearance

Training to Reduce the Chance of Specific Injuries

Evaluating imbalances of the musculoskeletal structure, strength and range of motion can help focus in on what corrective therapies or conditioning programs can reduce the risk of future injuries. For example, those with a history of ankle sprain can engage in balance training before and after a game. This intervention program has been shown to support ankle strength, recovery from a sprain and proprioceptive ability.

Stretches and corrective exercises can also help the risk of injuries to hips, knees and ankles. There is a lot of stress put on these areas at both the muscular and joint levels while playing basketball. Stretching is crucial both before and after playing this sport. Leg and hip strengthening programs also help reduce the severity of injuries and support a quicker recovery.

Treatment for Common Basketball Injuries

Treatment for ankle sprains typically involves, ice, compression, rest and elevation of the foot. X-rays are often taken to rule out a fracture. When there is swelling and pain over the bone itself, further evaluation may be needed. Since the game of basketball requires cutting maneuvers and frequent stop and go movements, injuries in the menisci and ligaments of the knee like patellofemoral inflammation are common. Knee injuries are often treated with bracing, ice and a gradual return to the sport. However, an injury to the anterior cruciate ligament is a bit more serious and may require corrective surgery to repair the ACL ligament.

Stress fractures are common due to over training or a rapid increase in the activity level during the game. Typically, these stress fractures occur in the lower leg and foot. Non-weight bearing and immobilization are often recommended. Once the fracture has healed and there is no pain, players can then return to the game.

The same way proper training and conditioning should be a part of any basketball players safety regime, maintaining a healthy diet is just as important. This way, basketball players can stay at optimal performance before, during and after the game.