by Dr. Keith LaDu

Basketball season is upon us, and unfortunately with it comes risk of injuries. Basketball is the fourth leading cause of injury for both “pick-up” and organized community sports resulting in more than 200,000 basketball-related injuries annually requiring emergency room treatment. Fortunately most injuries are usually minor, resulting in sprains and strains. The ankle (39.7%) and knee (14.7%) are the most common body parts injured followed by the head and face (13.6%), the hand and wrist (9.6%) and the hip and thigh (8.4%). High school and recreational basketball injuries tend to occur more frequently during practice, while college players are injured more often during games. Girls and women statistically have a slightly higher rate of injuries compared to boys and men. Unfortunately, the injuries female players sustain, such as knee injuries, are more severe than males. Studies have shown overall that more than 3/4 of the injuries are minor resulting in the inability to finish practice or complete a game yet able to return within 7 days. Injuries requiring surgery occur in only 2.6% of boys and 3.0% of girls. Of those injuries needing surgery, the knee accounted for nearly 50% for both males and females.

Common basketball injuries can be categorized as:

  • Foot and Ankle Injuries
  • Hip and Thigh Injuries
  • Knee Injuries
  • Hand and Wrist Injuries
  • Head and Face Injuries.

Common basketball injuries that require treatment include ankle sprainsAchilles tendonitis, knee tendonitis, muscle strainsACL tears and finger injuries.

Prevention of these injuries starts with conditioning and strengthening programs at least 3 weeks prior to the start of the basketball season if not earlier. The stronger and better conditioned a player is should result in less overuse injuries such as muscle strains and tendonitis. Specifically focusing on a stretching regimen to increase the flexibility of the thigh muscles can reduce the risk of thigh muscle strains. For foot and ankle injuries other preventative measures may include proper shoe wear. For those who have had prior ankle injuries, ankle braces or ankle taping may reduce the risk of further injury. The stronger the muscles in the legs are the better the support there will be for both the ankle joints and especially the knee joint reducing the risk of joint sprains. Court awareness is important for preventing hand and wrist injuries. Keeping your eye on the ball (looking it into your hands so you don’t jam your finger) and other players on the court can reduce hand and finger injuries. It has been documented that during games about 60% of injuries occur during the second half. Therefore the better the conditioned a player is the less likely one is to sustain an injury.

If a sports injury does occur, the gold standard for treatment is to follow the R-I-C-E principle. The acronym stands for Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation. In the early stages rest is important so further injury does not occur. Some athletes will try to “run it off” which could cause more damage. Applying ice achieves many benefits. It decreases the amount of tissue bleeding, reduces pain, reduces muscle spasms and reduces the risk of cell damage and death. Applying compression to an injured body part can minimize the amount of swelling helping to aid in pain relief and healing. Elevating the injured body part can also reduce both swelling and pain. Some health providers will add a “P” at the beginning of the acronym, Protection,  prior to the R-I-C-E making it P-R-I-C-E. Protection such as a splint or support can reduce further injury and tissue damage.

Basketball is a widely played sport, both recreationally and at multiple levels of organized competition. If an injury does occur, ideally it is minor and the R-I-C-E principle can be followed. However, if a significant injury does occur especially resulting in the inability to ambulate normally or difficulty moving an extremity, then an evaluation by an orthopedic or sports medicine physician is extremely important.

Dr. LaDu is a board-certified orthopedic surgeon who specializes in Sports Medicine and General Orthopedics. Dr. LaDu attended medical school at the Chicago College of Osteopathic Medicine in Downers Grove, IL. Dr. LaDu completed both his internship and surgical residency at Doctor’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio. His special interests include sports medicine, arthroscopic shoulder and knee surgery, total hip and knee replacement, as well as fracture care.

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