With the basketball season fast approaching it’s important talk about the most common basketball injuries we see and how we help to prevent them.
The dynamic nature of basketball requires speed with frequent and aggressive body contacts which can lead to a wide range of injuries, particularly of the knee, fingers, ankle and foot. The majority of acute injuries we see occur after sudden impact or force from falls, collisions, abrupt changes in direction, awkward landing positions or poor landing techniques and usually cause damage to ligaments and bony structures. Lower limb injuries account for approximately 62% of injuries and the majority of injuries are acute in nature.
An American study of male basketball players found the following:
- 22% of all players sustained at least one injury involving time off play each year
- 42% of the injuries were to the ankle/foot
- 11% hip and thigh
- 9% knee
- Sprains were the most common type (43%)
- General trauma was the second most common type (22%)
- 60% of the injuries occurred during training, showing the need of an effective warm up
- 59% of game-related injuries occurred during the second half of the game, which identifies fatigue as a predisposing factor
What are some of the most common injuries?
Ankle Sprains and Foot Injuries
Lower limb injuries often occur when the ligaments that hold your ankle stable are strained during running, jumping, landing unbalanced or sudden changes in direction. Ankle sprains vary in severity from slight twisting sprain to complete ligament ruptures, avulsion fractures or broken bones of the ankle and/or other foot bones. Common symptoms include pain, swelling, some bruising and difficulty weight bearing. You can read more about ankle sprains and their management in our previous post here.
A common acute knee injury is an ACL injury which occurs when a twisting force is exerted on the knee while the foot is planted on the ground (i.e. change of direction, landing from a jump, pivoting). The ACL is an important ligament in your knee. It controls excessive knee motion by keeping the thigh bone (femur) and shinbone (tibia) in line and prevents the shinbone from slipping forwards under the thigh bone. If you rupture or tear your ACL, you may hear/feel a pop within your knee. Pain will be located around the entire knee joint, and swelling often occurs instantly. You may also have trouble moving your knee and it may feel unstable. Read more about the ACL here.
Another knee injury seen in basketball includes patellar tendinopathy or also known as “Jumper’s Knee”. This is caused by the repeated forces to the knee during jumping and landing and can lead to inflammation of the patella tendon that attaches the muscles at the front of your leg to your shinbone. Pain and tenderness is located over the front of the knee. It is made worse with jumping, landing, running, squatting and even with prolonged sitting or kneeling. The onset of pain is usually gradual and related to an increase in sporting activity.
More about knee injuries here.
Finger injuries occur often in basketball and are usually dislocations or fractures. A dislocation involves moving the finger bones from their normal position and it can occur in any of the joints of any finger. They most commonly occur when the ball hits the end of your finger (jamming or pushing the joints together) or when the ball hits the fingers on your palm side (causes your finger joints to bend backwards or ‘hyperextend’). This may also lead to a fracture as well as damage to ligaments or tendons of your fingers. If a dislocation occurs, an x-ray will help ensure that the alignment of the affected joint is correct and rule out a fracture. Treatment will depend on the extent of the injury and can range from “buddy” strapping to moulded finger or hand splints.
The actions of basketball such as pivoting, running, jumping, and rebounding all place extra strain on the thigh and hip muscles such as the hip flexor, hamstrings and quadriceps, and sometimes strains. Deep muscle bruises (“corks”) can occur from contact on the court or over-extending of muscles and ligaments. Hip pointers are also common in basketball and involve bruising along the rim of the pelvis bone following a direct blow from either a fall or collision with another player.
Basketball Injury Prevention Strategies
Here’s some tips to help prevent a basketball injury:
- Warm up thoroughly before games and training.
Always take time to warm up as research shows that cold muscles are more prone to injury. Warm up with jumping jacks, high knees and bottom kicks, hip openers, sideways runs, lay-up practise, shuttle runs and sprints for at least 10 minutes total.
- Wear supportive basketball shoes with skid-resistant soles. Look for a good pair of basketball shoes that provides a higher profile and more support around the ankle. Also important to ensure the courts are cleared and checked for slippery spots before games start.
- Maintain good fitness. Higher injury rates are seen in players who have not prepared physically for the season. If you are out of shape after a period of inactivity, it is important to progress gradually your physical activity levels to slow build up fitness before returning to full basketball games. This can be done through training such as aerobic conditioning, strength and agility training and flexibility work (stretching your muscles). This will ensure you have excellent core control, proprioception, speed, strength, flexibility, endurance (overcoming that fatigue battle), agility and plyometic skills – everything you need to be a fantastic injury-free basketball player!
- Avoid overuse injuries – more is not always better! It is important to avoid pressure to over-train. This is particularly important for younger players and athletes as they are still growing and developing. Listening to your body and decreasing the amount of training time and intensity if pain or discomfort develops will reduce the risk of overuse type injury.
- Injury prevention programs are common and well developed. Using one of these during training sessions and pre-game warm-up is an excellent way to reduce injury, particularly to the dreaded ACL and other lower limb injuries. Read our blog post and download a copy for your team to start using these injury prevention programs.
What to do if you are injured?
If you are unlucky and sustain one of the above injuries, initial treatment involves the concepts of RICER for the first 24-48 hours following injury.
Rest: following an injury the firs step is to stop the activity you were doing and rest from any activity that causes pain. Rest may involve the use of crutches, braces, taping or slings. This helps to reduce swelling and bleeding to the injured tissues.
Ice: immediately applying an ice or a cold pack wrapped in a cool towel to the injured area helps to slow down the inflammatory response and reduces swelling and bleeding to the injured area. A good guide is to apply ice for 20 minutes every 2 waking hours for the first 24-48 hours. It is important to stop using ice if you experience any extreme pain or discomfort as you may be at risk of an ice burn.
Compression: of the injured area using a compression bandage also helps to reduce bleeding and swelling. When applying the bandage you should overlap the previous layer by one-half. The bandage should be firm, but not so tight that is causes pain. If you experience pins and needles, numbness or any colour changes of your extremities it means the bandage is too tight and cutting off your circulation – so loosen or remove it. Remove the compression bandage for sleeping.
Elevation: the injured limb or area above your heart level helps minimise swelling and bleeding to the area. For the lower limb, try to raise the injured area above the level of the pelvis by lying flat with the leg raised on a chair or pillows.
Refer: To a physiotherapist allows for the best possible management and rehabilitation plan to be put in place to get you back to your sport and doing what you love sooner. Treatment will include education on your injury and how it is managed, stretching and strengthening exercises, and referral to any other appropriate health professionals if it is required.
Also, avoid HARM in the first 24-48 hours after an injury.
H – heat
A – alcohol
R – running/exercise
M – massage
Maddy Parker is a Physiotherapist and a keen outdoors woman. She is living a health active life and is keen to support her clients to do the same.
A big thank you to Penrith Basketball Association for the photo.