How to avoid basketball knee injuries and enjoy a good game?
It seems like we are living in the golden age of basketball. We all “Love this game!” The NBA All-Star euphoria is exciting for everyone, especially during this time of the year, when the playoffs in both the Western and Eastern Conference are about to happen.
If you have ever played basketball, you know that we are talking about a fast-moving, exciting sport that is actually fun to play. However, there is one not-so-fun aspect of the game, and that is the high risk of knee injuries. Statistics have shown that basketball is the fourth leading cause of injury in the field of sports. It’s in the nature of the sport. All the running, jumping, outstretching, sudden stops, cutting side to side, puts an immense pressure on your knees, and as a result of that pressure, the knees can be unstable and prone to painful injuries.
Given these points, a conclusion that basketball is a dangerous sport comes naturally. However, as long as you understand where the risks come from and you learn how to prevent a severe knee injury, you can both play this exhilarating sport, and have perfectly healthy, protected knees.
The first step toward an enjoyable game of basketball is to learn what the potential knee injuries are and understand how to prevent them from happening.
What are the most common basketball knee injuries?
Knee sprains and strains
Knee sprains are injuries to the ligaments that occur when the knee is overstretched. In basketball, overstretching happens during a sudden stop while running, or when making a rapid change in direction. These movements are affecting the ligaments that join the bones together, making them weaker, overstretched and even prone to tears. The most common knee sprain involves an ACL tear, which causes pain and instability of the knee.
A proper knee sprain treatment usually involves an immobilization of the knee for a short time, which allows the knee joint to keep still, and the ligaments to heal. If the knee sprain is more severe and involves an ACL tear, then anti-inflammatory medications are required. For some players, ACL surgery might be the only treatment available.
On the other hand, knee strains are an injury to the tendons – the tissues that attach the muscles to the bones. Knee strains are a result of an overuse of the knee, and usually, cause bruising around the injured area.
The most common type of knee strain is the patellar tendonitis, widely known as Jumper’s knee. This is an inflammatory condition that causes pain in the front of the knee. Jumper’s knee is a very common condition among basketball players because their constant jumping puts a lot of pressure on the tendons.
The usual treatments for knee strains include a combination of anti-inflammatory medications and exercises. Corticosteroid or platelet-rich-plasma injections may also be used to treat the tendon inflammation.
The most common causes of meniscus tears are injuries or trauma to the knee. In basketball, meniscus tears occur when players twist their knees suddenly and awkwardly. Due to the lack of blood supply in the meniscus, these injuries can be difficult to heal and, if not treated properly, they may worsen over time.
If the meniscus tears are minor, they can be successfully treated with the RICE method: rest, ice, compression, and elevation. For more severe tears arthroscopic knee surgery may be needed. The knee arthroscopy has a fast recovery period, and players can be back to the basketball court in no time.
How to prevent knee injuries and enjoy the game?
First of all, don’t try the tricks that NBA legends use on the court. Yes, they’re exciting when we see them on TV, but the knee strength and stamina of professional athletes are at a much higher level than yours.
If you are serious about protecting your knee, follow these crucial tips:
- Get in good physical shape. This is of extreme importance for not just basketball, but any sport you do, because being fit will help you avoid pain and inflammation. If you haven’t been active for a longer period, start slowly and gradually increase the level of your physical activity. It’s important that your knees are strong before you start playing basketball because they bear all the pressure.
- Warm up before you start shooting hoops. Even if you do this in your backyard, make sure your body is ready for the game. Cold muscles are more prone to injuries. A 10 minute warm up is always a good idea.
- Use a good playing technique. Make sure you focus on your movements and positions. Open your eyes and watch if other players are running into you.
- Stay hydrated. Make sure you drink enough water or fresh juices during the game, and afterwards. Your body needs the fluids to effectively cool itself down after the sweating and evaporation you experienced during the game. This impacts the elasticity of your muscles, tendons, and ligaments.
- Play on a dry, clean field. Make sure there are no bumps or holes on the surface of the court.
- After you finish the game, gently stretch your body. After all the running and jumping, you need to let the body know that it will cool down. Stretching helps the muscles, ligaments and tendons relax, thus preventing inflammation and soreness.
- If you start feeling any pain, or if your knees start feeling weird, stop! Before you continue with the game, make sure your knees feel good and strong. Ignoring the signs of an injury can lead to developing a serious knee condition.
Remember, playing basketball should feel good, relaxing, and fun, and your knees should become stronger as a result of your physical activity. If there is anything that feels strange in your knee, or you hear a popping sound when you move, make sure you see an orthopedic doctor that can thoroughly examine your knee and, if necessary, recommend a correct course of treatment.