Scores more Sports Injuries than Other Sports
When he first introduced the game of basketball in 1891, Dr. James
Naismith was just trying to find an activity to keep his students at the YMCA Training School in
Springfield, Massachusetts entertained when it was too
cold to go outside. His prototype of the game we play today used a soccer ball
and two peach baskets. Chances are he would hardly recognize the fast-paced, competitive
sport that has become one of the most popular in the world. He’d be even more
surprised to learn that basketball is responsible for more sports injuries than
any other sport.
Statistics from the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons and the
NCAA’s Injury Surveillance System, show that more than 1.6 million basketball-related
injuries are treated in hospitals, doctors’ offices, clinics, ambulatory
surgery centers and hospital emergency rooms each year.
Whether you are playing for the neighborhood championship or the NBA
title, basketball can lead to injuries. According to orthopaedic specialist Jonathan Foret MD, with Center for Orthopaedics, it’s the
highly physical nature of the game that contributes to the high rate of
injuries. "With basketball, a lot of injuries
occur from body contact, and this is a sport without much protective gear –
there are no pads, no helmet, no shin guards and no face masks. In many ways,
it’s a lot like hand-to-hand combat, with a rapidly moving ball dictating the
quick, intense action that takes place within the relatively close confines of
a small court. Players at all positions are at risk of injury,” adds Dr. Foret,
who also serves as a Team Physician for McNeese State University.
He explains that basketball injuries can be separated into two general
categories: overuse injuries and traumatic injuries. "Injuries caused by
stressing an area over and over until it is damaged and begins to hurt are
overuse injuries. Several of these types
of injuries are commonly seen in basketball players.”
Patellar tendinitis, or "jumper's knee," is one of
these. It is characterized by pain in
the tendon just below the kneecap. Achilles
tendinitis is another common overuse injury in basketball players. Dr. Foret says this injury of the tendon
connecting the muscles in the back of the calf to the heel bone causes pain in
the back of the leg just above the heel. "In some cases, the Achilles tendon can tear. To treat a torn Achilles tendon, surgery is
usually required. Occasionally, we will
treat with cast immobilization.”
Some basketball players overuse the tendons in their shoulders from
shooting, passing and/or blocking. The rotator cuff of the shoulder is composed
of four muscles. Dr. Foret says the tendons that attach these muscles to the
shoulder bones can become inflamed and painful, particularly when you do
repetitive overhead activities, such as shooting the basketball.
Dr. Foret explains that traumatic injuries are those caused by a
sudden forceful injury. One of the more
common traumatic injuries in basketball is a jammed finger. The severity of a
jammed finger can range from a minor injury of the ligaments, which connect
bones, to a broken finger. Splinting may be needed to allow the injured finger
to heal. Another type of traumatic injury is a muscle pull or tear. In
basketball players, these injuries occur primarily in the large muscles of the
legs. To prevent them, stretch your thighs and calves well and do warm-up
exercises before playing.
One of the most
common of all basketball injuries is an ankle sprain. "This typically occurs when
a player lands on another player's foot or the ankle rolls too far outward,”
says Dr. Foret. "When this happens, the ligaments connecting bones and
supporting the ankle are stretched or torn partially or completely.” Sprains
are typically treated with a short period of immobilization. After
immobilization, exercises to strengthen the muscles that hold your ankle in
place are recommended.”
Knee injuries are among the most serious basketball injuries,
according to Dr. Foret. One type is a
sprain, a small tear in the ligaments or joint capsule that is not severe
enough to cause your knee to give way, but that may weaken it. These are treated similarly to an ankle
sprain, with rest and strengthening. To help the tear heal, you must protect
your knee for a short time by immobilizing it. After the tear heals stretching
and strengthening exercises are prescribed for the muscles that help hold the
knee in place.
A twisting injury can tear the meniscus, the tissue that acts as a
cushion between the bones of the upper and lower leg at the knee. "To repair or
remove a torn meniscus, we have to do arthroscopic surgery,” says Dr. Foret.
"During this procedure, we insert a tiny camera and instruments into the knee
joint through small incisions. This allows us to visualize and repair the damage.”
A more severe
basketball injury is a complete tear of one or more of the ligaments that
support the knee. Dr. Foret says the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) is one
of the more commonly torn ligaments in the knee. This ligament connects the
upper and lower leg bones and helps hold the knee in place. "If you damage your
ACL, your knee will probably hurt and give way persistently. In most cases, surgery is needed to
reconstruct the ACL and restore stability.
While a relatively common procedure, it is one that requires a number of
months of recovery and reconditioning.”
Because of the high risk of injury when playing
basketball, prevention should be a focus for every coach and player. Dr. Foret says some of the most important precautions
take place before you go on the court:
Have a pre-season physical examination and follow
your doctor's recommendations for basketball injury prevention.
· Hydrate adequately - waiting until you are thirsty is too late.
· Maintain proper fitness - injury rates are higher in athletes who have
not adequately prepared physically.
· After a period of inactivity, progress gradually back to full-participation
basketball through conditioning activities such as aerobic conditioning,
strength training, and agility training.
· Select basketball shoes that fit snugly, offer support, and are non-skid.
· Before practice or a game, always take time to warm up and stretch.
Research studies have shown that cold muscles are more prone to injury.
· Avoid overuse injuries. Listen to your body and decrease training time
and intensity if pain or discomfort develops. This will reduce the risk of
injury and help avoid "burn-out."