Stay in the game with these three tips for preventing basketball injuries
From NBA athletes to kids holding a basketball for the first time, every player faces the increased risk of being sidelined by injuries, missing a whole season, or ending their careers entirely.
Playing basketball requires physical contact through short, intermittent bursts of intense activity involving starting and stopping motions, all of which can create serious damage. The most common injuries experienced by players include ankle strains and sprains, knee injuries, stress fractures, lower back strains, hamstring strains and concussions.
As the team physician for Michigan State Athletics, I’ve worked with many high-level athletes — including basketball players — to help them recover from a variety of injuries. Based on research and my own experience, I’ve put together a few key tips for athletes of all ages and skill levels to help reduce the chances of an injury from happening, minimize the extent of the trauma once one has occurred, and promote recovery while preventing recurrence.
Stretching is one of the main ways to prevent or reduce injury and, yet, so many of us skip over it. It’s a key component to keeping muscles flexible, strong and healthy. We need that flexibility to maintain a range of motion in the joints. On and off the court, it’s also important to warm up and increase body temperature prior to any athletic activity.
Before and after a game, basketball players must concentrate on strengthening muscles around their core and in their legs. It’s recommended to use a mixture of static and dynamic stretches.
Static stretches work the muscle to near its furthest point and then hold that position for at least 15 or 20 seconds. According to a research review in the National Library of Medicine, 104 studies found that static stretching reduces overall strength in the stretched muscles by almost 5.5%. Dynamic stretches are more active motions that cause joints and their surrounding muscles to go through a full range of movements.
A combination of these stretches prevents muscle soreness, improves the joint range of motion and increases blood flow to the stretched region, all of which assist in recovery.
Getting quality, restorative sleep is easier said than done. We’ve all struggled at one time or another to achieve the essential seven to eight hours. Maintaining an appropriate amount of sleep is crucial for everyone but even more so for the developmental health in athletes — especially basketball players.
Sleep is imperative for proper recovery between training sessions or games. Disruptions to the circadian rhythms have been shown to take a physical toll on players. According to a study by the British Journal of Sports Medicine, data also shows that if an athlete performs while tired, they may be more inclined to utilize poor physical mechanics which can result in injuries.
Athletes must partake in a balanced diet and consume appropriate amounts of protein to help promote healing in the body between sessions.
Without the right diet and steady hydration, an athlete can struggle to maintain the right amount of energy and keep bones strong and at the correct density, putting themselves at an increased risk of fractures and breaks. Whether it’s for rehabilitation or prevention, protein and unsaturated fatty acids are needed to compensate for inflammation and provide an abundance of nutrients, which are essential in the healing process.
Every athlete knows getting hurt is a part of the game, and there is no way to guarantee an injury-free season. In practice and in games, things happen that are out of our control. But through proper self-care, we can prevent or minimize by prioritizing health.
Dr. Toufic R. Jildeh, M.D., is an orthopedic surgeon on the MSU Health Care Sports Medicine surgical team. His role extends to include team physician for MSU Athletics and the U.S. Olympic Ski & Snowboard team.