Learn how you can prevent common basketball injuries

Basketball has long captured the interest of sports devotees. Whether you play in a rec league, competitively, or just shoot hoops in your driveway, avoiding injuries and playing better is always essential.

In an effort to address questions and concerns about training, injuries, and skills, Sean Rentler, MS, LAT, ATC, a UPMC Sports Medicine certified athletic trainer at Vincentian Academy recently sat down to answer some of your questions during a Facebook OpenWall chat.

Q: I’m a basketball dunker, is there a safe way to land after a high-flying dunk without the pressure on my ankles and legs?

A: Make sure to focus on an even, two-footed landing, making sure not to put too much stress on one foot or the other, or on the front/back of each foot. This applies to other types of landings as well.

Q:  I have a broken finger. Am I still able to play basketball? I keep getting conflicting answers from people.

A:  I would first consult with your orthopaedic physician to make sure you can return to play. If you do, make sure it’s splinted to prevent further injury. Just be careful out there, and with the proper precautions you should be okay.

Q: Are there any specific conditioning drills I can do to improve balance and coordination to prevent injury on the court?

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A: Prevention of injuries should include a combination of plyometric, balance, strength, and stability exercises. For balance, try single-leg squats/lifts, standing with each leg on uneven surfaces, or even yoga. To improve coordination, include plyometric and agility exercises such as ladders or shuttles, dribbling drills, and lots of practice time. Good luck!

Q: My nephew plays forward and when he runs up and down the court his right hip hurts. His parents are thinking about taking him for PT. What do you think he should do?

A: If your nephew plays high school or middle school basketball, where he has access to a certified athletic trainer, he should start there.

The athletic trainer can provide injury assessment and establish a plan of care that may include referral to a sports medicine physician or physical therapist who specializes in sports medicine orthopaedic care.

If an athletic trainer is not available I recommend consulting a sports medicine physician if he hasn’t done so already. They can get a plan of action in place, which may include physical therapy, or other treatment modalities. To make an appointment with a UPMC Sports Medicine physician, call 1-855-93-SPORT (77678).

Q: Would it be a bad move to play a holiday pickup game in running shoes? I hardly ever play except for family gatherings and haven’t owned a decent pair of basketball shoes in years.

A: If you play casually just a few times a year, there is no danger in using a decent pair of running shoes. If the games get more competitive or more frequent, investing in some basketball shoes might not be a bad idea. Just make sure not to wear loafers, dress shoes, or sandals/flip flops. Have fun and good luck!

Q: I’ve heard ACL injuries are very common in basketball players. What is the best way to prevent this type of injury?

A: Yes, ACL injuries tend to be common is sports with a lot of quick movement and changes in direction.

Some things to do to avoid ACL injuries include proper jumping and landing techniques, and strengthening hip, knee, and ankle muscles. For more info, check out our ACL Injury Prevention program through UPMC Sports Performances.

Q: My child has asthma, is it safe for him to play basketball? If so, what types of conditioning exercises do you recommend? Should I be nervous?

A: It is generally safe for your son to be playing, as long as his asthma is under control and you consult his doctor. Make sure he knows when to use his inhaler, and ensure all the coaches know he has asthma in case he needs assistance. Some conditioning can include aerobic (long distances) and anaerobic (short distances) exercises like running or cycling.

Q: I played basketball throughout my entire life and am interested in joining a co-ed intramural league. Is there a greater risk for injury in this type of league?

A: I would say there is a risk of injury for this type of league, since many participants are recreational athletes and not as well conditioned as a full time in-season athletes, and therefore more susceptible for sprains, strains, and other acute injuries. Proper conditioning, stretching before playing, and not playing through injury are all ways to be safe on the court.

Q: I’ve noticed many professional basketball players wear compression sleeves and gear. Is there a benefit to wearing it?

A: There is some science that suggests a compression sleeve on your shooting arm can help with proprioception, which is a greater awareness of how your arm moves. Compression also is important for injury recovery. Finally, many players wear compression gear as a personal aesthetic preference.

Q: How can I protect myself from eye injuries and what should I do if I’m poked or elbowed in the eye?

A: The best way to avoid eye injuries on the court is to wear protective sports eyewear. If you wear prescription eyeglasses, secure them with a strap. If you are poked or elbowed in the eye, come out of the game if you experience double vision, blurriness, or vision issues. Also, be mindful of the possibility of a concussion if you are hit in the head or experience any rapid head movement.

Q: I seem to be prone to ankle sprains. Is there anything I can do to prevent ankle or knee sprains?

A: Great question! Focus on strengthening muscles around the knee and ankle joint, like quads and hamstrings. Ankle braces and tape are also helpful. Lastly, improving balance is important. Try yoga, standing on an uneven surface, and single leg squats.

For more information on common basketball injuries, visit our basketball training section.

To learn more about UPMC Sports Medicine experts and services, or to schedule an appointment, call 1-855-93-SPORT (77678) or visit UPMCSportsMedicine.com.

About Sports Medicine

An athletic lifestyle carries the potential for injury. Whether you’re an elite athlete or a weekend warrior, UPMC Sports Medicine can help. If you are looking to prevent, treat, or rehabilitate a sports injury, our multidisciplinary team of experts can help you get back into the game. If you are seeking to improve your athletic performance, we can work with you to meet your goals. We serve athletes and active people of all ages and experience levels. Our goal is to help you keep doing what you love. Visit our website to find a specialist near you.