11 Common Basketball Injuries

Tips for treating and preventing the most common basketball injuries and pain

Basketball Dunk
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Basketball can give you a good workout whether you are shooting hoops for fun, playing on the school basketball team, or are a professional player. But as with any activity, you can sustain an injury. Basketball injuries are generally defined as either cumulative (overuse) or acute (traumatic) injuries.

Overuse Injuries in Basketball

Overuse injuries occur over time due to stress on the muscles, joints and soft tissues without proper time for healing.

They begin as a small, nagging ache or pain, and can grow into a debilitating injury if they aren't treated early.

Injuries that fall into this category include:

  • Tendonitis: This is the general term for inflammation of a tendon, and can also be spelled tendinitis. Overuse is specifically called tendinosis, while inflammation from an acute injury is called tendonitis.
  • Achilles tendinitis: The Achilles tendon attaches the calf muscle to the ankle, and it gets a workout in basketball with all of the short sprints. Pain at the back of the ankle just above the heel is the chief symptom, often worse in the morning for a chronic case.
  • Rotator cuff tendonitis: This is the part of the shoulder joint that moves your arm up and down and rotates it, essential moves for shooting hoops.

Acute or Traumatic Injuries in Basketball

Acute or traumatic injuries occur due to a sudden force, or impact, and can be quite dramatic.

Even though basketball is supposed to be a non-contact sport, there are plenty of opportunities to have bumps and falls, or to finally work a muscle, joint or tendon so it ruptures or tears. The jumps, short sprints and twists in basketball can cause these injuries. The more common traumatic injuries in basketball include:

  • Anterior and Posterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL/PCL)Injuries: These are the major ligaments that provide stability to your knee. Injuries happen during a sudden twisting motion or a change of direction, which is a big part of the game of basketball.
  • Injuries to the Meniscus: This is the cushioning pad inside your knee. They can be torn with a forceful rotation of the knee while the foot is firmly planted, a move often seen in basketball.
  • Wrist Sprains: Falling with your hand outstretched to take the impact can sprain or break your wrist.
  • Finger Fractures: Also seen with falls, contact, or even just a bad catch or ball pass.
  • Ankle Sprains: Sudden changes of direction while running can result in an ankle sprain.
  • Achilles Tendon Rupture: A forceful stretch of the tendon can cause it to rupture, with a pop sound and sudden inability to lift onto your toes. Recovery can require surgery and up to 12 weeks in a cast.
  • Hamstrings Pull or Tears: These muscles at the back of your thigh flex your knee during running, and a pull can happen with a sharp pain in mid-stride.

Preventing Basketball Injuries

Both types of injuries may result from overuse, lack of proper rest, lack or proper warm ups or poor conditioning. The following safety precautions are recommended to help prevent help basketball injuries:

  • Warm up thoroughly prior to play. Sprinting and jumping with cold muscles may increase the risk of injury.
  • Wear supportive basketball shoes with skid-resistant soles.
  • Use protective equipment (mouth guards, knee and elbow pads or eye protection).
  • Use good technique and play by the rules.
  • Clean off courts before play - check for slippery spots or debris.
  • Have a first aid kit on hand.
  • Get adequate recovery.
  • Stay hydrated. Have a good drink of water before your hoop session, then drink at regular intervals while you play. For long sessions, sports drink can replenish lost body salt.

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