March is upon us and for basketball fans this means one thing: March Madness.  Buzzer beaters, Cinderella squads, and cutting down the net make for highlights each year during the action-packed NCAA Tournament. Stars like Arike Ogunbowale and Zion Williamson are ready to enter the madness that is 60+ teams competing in a single-elimination tournament all hoping to raise the National Championship at the end of the three weeks of play. 

Players have been working hard the entire year for this moment, and now the time has come to step up their game to win it all. Basketball is a high-intensity sport and as we have seen throughout this season, injuries can occur. It is important to be aware of the common injuries in basketball, as well as prevention tips to help keep players healthy for the entire season.

Common Basketball Injuries:

Basketball is a very popular sport, with players of all ages and skill getting in on the action. It is estimated that 1.6 million injuries occur each year that are associated with the game of basketball. According to the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine, the most common basketball injuries include:

Ankle Sprains

  • This is the most common injury in basketball. A quick change in direction or jumping and landing on another player’s foot are two common ways that the ankle is sprained in basketball. A common misconception that is often heard is “it’s just a sprain, they’ll walk it off”. A sprain involves the ligaments of the ankle and can turn out to be a significant injury depending on the level of impact/force to the ligaments. Although many sprains are minor with a player usually returning within a few days, a more serious sprain can keep an athlete sidelined for several weeks.  

Jammed Fingers

  • Whether it was going for a steal or simply catching a pass from a teammate, almost all basketball players have experienced the misfortune of a jammed finger at some point in their career. It occurs when the ball awkwardly strikes the finger-tip, leaving the knuckle to absorb the force and cause injury to the finger. 

Knee Injuries

  • Knee injuries are common because of the quick changes in direction, repetitive jumping, and high intensity of the game. Patellar tendonitis, also called “jumper’s knee,” is the inflammation of the cord-like tissue that joins the kneecap to the shin bone. This is an overuse injury that can result from the constant jumping and landing that occurs in basketball. Other common knee injuries involve damage to structures in the knee such as the anterior cruciate ligament, poster cruciate ligament, or meniscus. 

Deep Thigh Bruising

  • Basketball is a contact sport, and even though foul calls are made to keep the game safe, there is always inadvertent contact that happens when players are all going for the ball at full speed. A thigh bruise commonly results in basketball when the front of the thigh is struck by another player’s elbow or knee.

Stress Fractures

  • This is another overuse injury that results from overtraining, starting initial training or getting back into training at too rapid of a pace, and changing shoes or running surfaces. Stress fractures are most commonly seen in the foot and lower leg. Repetitive high impact forces combined with inadequate rest and recovery cause the supporting muscles and bones to become tired and weak. The constant jumping and running in basketball can put a lot of extra stress on the bones when the muscles are tired. When the stress-bearing capacity of a bone is exceeded, a fracture can occur.

Injury Prevention:

It is important to be aware of these common basketball injuries and to place a strong emphasis on implementing injury prevention strategies. The stakes are high during this time of the year, and it is crucial to keep players healthy in order to reach the coveted National Championship game. Listed below are common injury prevention strategies in basketball that can help players to stay healthy and on the court during crunch time.

  • Make sure you have proper basketball equipment. Wear supportive, comfortable, and non-slip basketball sneakers in game and in practice.  Additional safety equipment can include ankle braces, knee pads, and a mouth guard.
  • Warm up and stretch before games to ensure the body is ready to perform at the high level of intensity required in a basketball game.
  • Follow the rules and use proper technique. Basketball is a fast-paced game with a lot of various movements involved in passing, dribbling, shooting, and rebounding. In order to ensure the safety of both an offensive and defensive player, it is important to follow the rules and focus on the fundamentals.
  • Stay hydrated and maintain proper nutrition.  Adequate hydration and nutrition are essential to fueling a strong performance in any sport.
  • Participate in an exercise program that incorporates strength training, cardiovascular conditioning, flexibility, balance, and agility drills that relate to the movements on the basketball court.
  • Proper rest and recovery are essential throughout the season and especially during the craziness of tournament time.

Despite these prevention efforts, the fast-paced and high intensity nature of the game of basketball can lead to these common injuries and more. Our team of qualified physicians has the most extensive experience with sports-related injuries in the Lehigh Valley and our Sports Medicine Institute was voted best Sports Medicine Team in the 2018 Morning Call Reader’s Choice Awards.

To schedule an appointment with one of our doctors, call 610-973-6200 or fill out our “Request an Appointment” form.