Here we are smack dab in the middle of one of the most popular sports tournaments in North America – NCAA March Madness. In honor of the event, we thought it would be a good idea to provide some helpful tips for the basketball players out there, and this is no small group. Did you know that basketball injuries drive more visits to the ER than any other sport? And yes, it’s one of the top culprits in Canada too. Before you lace up for your next pickup or organized game, read through the following.
4 Physical Therapy Tips to Preventing Common Injuries Incurred From Playing Basketball
1. Know the Risk
As noted on our previous article on sports injury prevention, the National Athletic Trainers Association (NATA) cites trauma to the following body parts as the leading forms of basketball injury:
Sprains (stretching or tearing of ligaments, which are the tough bands of fibrous tissue that connect two bones together in your joints) are the most common forms of injury, followed by strains, which are injuries to muscles or tendons. While there are other risks of injury, including impact trauma to the face or scalp, we will focus on those that you can adequately prepare for from a physical therapy perspective. Keep reading.
2. Warm Up, Stay Warm, and Cool Down
It goes without saying that you should warm up before playing basketball if you expect to stay injury free. That warm up should consider the most commonly injured body parts addressed above. In addition to performing stretches for each, warm up activities for the ankle/foot, hip/thigh/leg, and knees should include jumping jacks and short spurt runs up and down the court. For your forearms, wrist, and hand, rotation exercises will do, along with running (while applying pressure) a foam roller from just below your elbow all the way to your wrist, and back again.
But you’re not out of the woods just because the game clock has started. When playing in an organized game, there will be bench time and breaks at the end of a quarter and at halftime. If permitted (by the coach) you should not sit idle during these moments. Remember Dennis Rodman before he started hanging out with Trump and Kim Jong-Un? He was an integral part of the world champion Chicago Bulls. One way that Rodman was able to calm his restlessness and remain relatively injury free after bouts of banging the boards with the leagues toughest players, was by hitting the stationary bike during bench time and quarter/halftime breaks. If viable, do the same.
Lastly, always remember to cool down as soon as the game has concluded, with some light stretching and some additional low-intensity stationary bike time. By doing so, your body will be ripe and ready for the next game.
3. Maintain All Around Fitness
This one goes out to weekend ballers in particular. While those of you that play at school or in organized leagues tend to hold practices, and thus boast a more consistent level of fitness, there are many of you who only play when inspiration strikes. You may have finished watching a series of March Madness Round One match-ups and are all of a sudden amped to get up off of the sofa and hit the local court or community center. But when this is the only time you get a similar level of fitness, your risk of injury increases.
If you only play once a week (or less) you will want to add more activity to your weekly fitness regime if you expect to stay injury free. This regime should incorporate aerobic exercise, strength training, and flexibility. In addition, find activities that mimic body movements (quick pivoting, etc.) in basketball, such as tennis or racquetball, and make them a part of your agenda. Yes, you could also play more basketball, but by adding variety you work all of the big and little muscles, tendons, and ligaments that may otherwise be neglected and thus more susceptible to injury when playing b-ball.
Note: remember to stay well hydrated from start to finish to provide your body what it needs before, during, and after game time.
4. Proper Footwear = Custom Orthotics?
This solution is often overlooked by players (and/or their parents/coaches). A basketball player may be experiencing foot or leg pain/discomfort due to a walking condition/imbalance. These can include flat feet, heel pain, knee pain, shin pain, and more. Associated pain and discomfort may have been incorrectly chalked up to the cost of playing basketball. Not only will this misdiagnosis leave a player without an adequate treatment/therapeutic response, it can also lead to injury out on the court. If you are experiencing pain/discomfort in their lower extremities, see a physiotherapist that provides a 3D digital Gait analysis (to assess the manner of walking) and where appropriate, will prescribe custom orthotic inserts for that new pair of Air Jordans.
If you (or the baller in your life) is concerned about acute or chronic pain associated with playing basketball, and you (or they) reside in the Burnaby, Coquitlam, or Greater Vancouver area, contact us right away.