Biggest Injury Risks For Basketball Players and How to Prevent Them

Basketball is a contact sport. But unlike, say, football or hockey, the participants wear very little protective equipment, making injuries all-too-common occurrences.

While hoops injuries are as inevitable as a Steph Curry bucket from behind the arc, there are prudent preventative measures that can be taken to reduce exposure to some of the game’s routine ailments. Heed them and you’ll markedly improve your chances of going an entire season without any debilitating setbacks.

Ankle Sprains
Turning an ankle is by far the most frequent injury suffered on the hardwood. Sharp cuts, sudden stops and awkward landings put maximum pressure on tendons and ligaments which exposes these structures to partial and complete tears. Once that ankle’s structures are torn or “stretched” beyond its normal range of motion; swelling and severe pain will be the immediate result.
Preventative Measure: Invest in the proper footwear. Since the ankle is on the receiving end of so much force, it’s critical to support the entire foot with a comfortable high-top sneaker that protects the ankle during times of excessive pronation and supination.

Knee Injuries
Unfortunately, knee injuries are as synonymous with sports as a box score. The knee joint bears most of the body’s weight, which leaves it susceptible to a wide variety of issues, often involving ligament sprains and tears.
Preventative Measure: The importance of stretching cannot be overstated, regardless of the activity. As it pertains to basketball and knee health, it’s crucial to warm up the muscles that complement the region. Muscle groups such as the calves, quadriceps and hamstrings that run below and above the knee, will be more prepared to handle the stressors that will be placed on them if they are properly stretched.    

Lower Back Problems
Nagging back issues were the downfall of Larry Bird’s Hall of Fame career. And he wasn’t alone, because when any area of the back acts up, it’s next to impossible to perform at your usual standard.
Preventative Measure: Stretching is a no-brainer, right? A cold lumbar region is just asking to be doubled over like an octogenarian by halftime. However, it’s vital to focus beyond the back, also loosening up the hips, glutes and hamstrings and strengthening the core muscles. A supple posterior and hip region, along with a strong core, will assist the lumbar region during heavy lifting and twisting activities, which in turn will take some of pressure off of the lower back.

Face and Mouth
Operating in heavy traffic, without the protection of headgear, leaves basketball players vulnerable to flying elbows, misguided fingers and the opponent’s head when you’re taking a charge.
Preventative Measure: If you want to avoid unscheduled trips to the dentist and the ophthalmologist, get comfortable wearing a mouth guard and protective goggles. You’ll want to test drive both in practice, in the event they’re uncomfortable. Also, always be aware of your surroundings when boxing out for rebounds and diving for loose balls, when head and facial injuries are more likely to occur.

Hand Injuries
This isn’t soccer or football, for that matter. If you lose the function of one of your hands, you can forget about participating in a sport that puts such an emphasis on ball-handling, shooting and cleaning the glass to secure rebounds.
Preventative Measure: If you’re a guard, in particular, you understand the difficulty of dribbling and perfecting your stroke with a sprained wrist or finger. While there’s no specific protocol for warding off hand injuries, remaining alert at all times is a must. That means keeping your head up at the rim, where errant shots carom unpredictably, and avoiding the hard falls that can injure wrists and hands.

Shoulders
Irritating your teammates isn’t the only drawback to being a chucker. Hoist up too many shots and you’re liable to suffer a repetitive motion injury to your shoulder, such as bursitis or problems with the rotator cuff.
Preventative Measure: To keep the shoulder operating at peak functionality, it’s essential to stretch and strengthen the rotator cuff, a group of muscles and tendons connecting the upper arm with the shoulder blade. If you want to have the hot hand, be certain your shoulders are warm in pregame and not forgotten during off season training.

Foot Woes
Each of your feet is a complex fusion of bones, joints, tendons and ligaments, so it’s no wonder it’s so easy to injure. Basketball players’ feet absorb a tremendous amount of pressure, particularly those individuals who can jump sky high into the air.
Preventative Measure: When you’re outfitting your feet with the proper gear, look for more than sneakers. Ideally, you want shock absorbers that can cushion the full force of your weight every time you leave the floor. Find your best fit, and then reload with a new pair each year.

By Jag Physical Therapy