Since its invention in 1891 by YMCA teacher Dr. James Naismith, the game of basketball has seen immense growth. From peach baskets on a small gym wall, to powerful dunks in front of millions of fans, the sport has rapidly changed from what it once was.
But with the increased speed and size of the players, basketball injuries have become more common than ever before. Even with today’s improved training programs and facilities, there is simply no way to avoid some of the physical harm that can come about during games.
However, understanding how to prevent and treat some of the most common basketball injuries can help lessen your chances of getting hurt in the first place, as well as arm you with knowledge should the situation arise.
What are some of the most common basketball injuries?
Until recent years, there was hardly any significant data on the amount of injuries that professional basketball players dealt with. But after a 17 year study by the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine (AOSSM) it was determined that, for every 1000 hours of basketball played, athletes can expect to deal with anywhere from 6-14 injuries. Of these injuries, the most frequent ones they found included:
Deep thigh bruising
While no mandatory padding is needed, basketball is well-known for being a contact sport. As players jostle for position, the subtle bumps and collisions they deal with make for injuries that can affect just about every part of the body. In this way, as is the case with most contact sports, participating puts almost all of your joints, ligaments, bones, and muscles at risk of injury in one way or another. Here’s how to handle the most common basketball injuries should you ever find yourself having to cope with one.
An ankle sprain can occur when the ankle is twisted, rolled, or turned in an abnormal way, resulting in the stretching and/or tearing of one or more ligaments in the ankle. The injury is often recognized by the pain and swelling that follows, which often limits the person’s range of motion for at least a week. However, depending on the severity of the injury, it can take anywhere from a few days to a few months to properly heal a sprained ankle.
Sprained ankle treatment involves Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation (a.k.a. RICE) protocol, which helps control swelling and assists in the overall healing of the damaged ligament. In severe cases, your orthopedic foot and ankle specialist may ask you follow up with physical therapy to make sure the ligament is healed back to its original state.
- Preventing a sprained ankle comes down the use of proper equipment when playing. This includes using basketball shoes that support the ankle, as well as supplementary braces or taping for those that are particularly prone to ligament injuries in this area.
Though not common, knee injuries are known to happen when playing basketball. They can range from simple joint pain to more serious injuries like fractured and torn ligaments. Serious injuries like ACL (Anterior Cruciate Ligament) tears and knee fractures have been known to keep players out of the game for a year or more.
Treatment for knee pain depends on the severity of the injury. While minor joint pain can usually be treated with the RICE method, more serious injuries require attention from an orthopedic knee specialist. Through the use of an x-ray and MRI scan, your doctors can determine just how severe an injury really is, allowing them to provide a proper diagnosis. Depending on this diagnosis, surgery may be required, followed by physical therapy in order to strengthen the repaired ligament or joint.
Preventing knee injuries comes down to two things: preparation and flexibility. Making sure to establish proper mechanics and muscle balance helps prepare the body for unusual movements it may have to go through. Further, wearing a compression sleeve or knee brace can help protect players from injuries like this as well.
Deep Thigh Bruising
A deep thigh bruise (or contusion) is a very common basketball injury that typically takes place when an elbow or knee inadvertently strikes a player’s thigh muscles. These types of bruises have a usual recovery time of about 4-8 weeks, depending on the severity.
Treatment for deep thigh bruising involves use of RICE protocol, making sure to ice and rest the affected area before getting back to full activity.
Prevention for deep thigh bruising is difficult since the injuries often happen due to the high-speed, physical nature of the game. Compression sleeves and shorts with padding can be worn to potentially lessen the effect of the injury.
A jammed finger happens when the ball hits the top of the finger abruptly, which jams the finger into one of its joints, usually resulting in pain and swelling.
Treating a jammed finger includes the use the ice and tape. Icing the finger is the primary source of relief, followed by the use of “buddy tape”, which aligns the injured finger with an adjacent one in an effort to protect the prone phalange while it recovers.
Preventing a jammed finger is all about awareness. Always being ready for the ball, as well as understanding how it moves when in your hands are the easiest ways to ensure you don’t jam a finger when playing basketball.
Yet while these are the most common injuries found in basketball, that does not mean players aren’t prone to others with more serious repercussions.
Rothman Orthopaedics is proudly partnered with the Philadelphia 76ers as their definitive orthopedic experts. Handling muscle, bone, and joint health, we’re happy to represent such an outstanding franchise and do our part to keep our favorite players on the court, where they belong.