The quick bursts of speed and direction changes inherent in basketball
can make for sore muscles after a hard-fought game. Athletes are most likely to
experience muscle strains early in the season when their conditioning level
isn't where it needs to be. Even late in the season, however, you could strain
a muscle when you're fatigued at the end of a game.
Recreational basketball players
can avoid some of the early season muscle trauma by working on strength and
conditioning prior to the season. Work on quick bursts of activity. Try
sprinting on the court both the length and the width, with and without the
If you experience a painful
muscle strain, ice it right away and keep icing it on and off for 72 hours or
until any swelling has stabilized. Don't apply heat to anything that's swollen.
You can also take over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications, such as
ibuprofen, which are helpful for relieving the pain of many minor injuries.
When you go up for a rebound amidst a group of scrambling players, you
face the possibility of a sprained ankle if you come down on someone else's
foot. These are usually inversion ankle sprains to the ligaments on the outside
of the ankle. If you have a history of ankle sprains, experts say you should
consider playing in an ankle brace or taping your ankle.
To treat an ankle sprain, just
remember the RICE acronym (rest, ice, compression, elevation). Icing especially
will help control the swelling that can cause pain over the several days
following an injury. You may need to see a physician to determine if the ankle
is sprained or broken.
There's not much you can do to prevent a jammed finger in a sport
where a ball flies at you fast. If you jam a finger, ice it right away and try
to move it as soon as you can. If you think it might be dislocated or you can't
move it at all, get an x-ray to see what's going on in there.
The most common knee sprain in basketball is a medial collateral
ligament (MCL) sprain and can be caused by either planting then cutting too
hard or by hitting the outside of your knee on someone else's planted leg.
Pre-season leg strengthening helps prevent many knee injuries.
Treat MCL sprains with ice (even
though they don't generally swell excessively). Try a knee sleeve for
compression and make sure you work on your range of motion as soon as you can.
A torn MCL can be a fairly serious injury and must be evaluated and treated by
Leg strength specifically, an even hamstrings to quadriceps strength
ratio has been identified as a possible factor in preventing tears of the
anterior cruciate ligament (ACL). ACL tears are fairly common in basketball,
especially in female players, whose hip structures often lead to "knock-kneed"
landings. Practice jumping and landing properly balanced on both feet, and on
the balls of your feet.
If you think you might have a
torn ACL, get evaluated by an orthopedic surgeon. A torn ACL usually requires
Ideally, you'd start training for basketball season three weeks before
it started, building a base of strength and conditioning and building up from
there. But for most recreational athletes, that's not realistic and doing
something is better than doing nothing. So try to get at least a base level of
conditioning built up in the weeks or months prior to the season. Focus on
strength training squats, plymetrics, and jumping drills as well as drills that
improve your ability to move well on the court.
Here are a few on-court
Place four cones in a square, eight to ten feet apart. Stand in the
center of the square, and have your drill partner point to a cone. Get yourself
to the cone, touch it, and return to the center as quickly as you can. Before
you're back to the center, your partner should be pointing to the next cone you
have to touch. Start with 30 seconds and build to a minute or two. This
improves your ability to change direction quickly and be aware of body
Place six cones on the court in a zigzag pattern (cones should be
about 16 feet apart and at 45 degree angles). Start at the first cone and
sprint to the second, then third, fourth, fifth and sixth. Reverse the pattern
and return to the first cone. Repeat for 30 seconds; build up to a minute or
two. This gives you practice in quick bursts of speed and shifting direction.
Medicine ball shuffle
Stand at one end of the court, facing your partner who is a foot or
two away from you. Do a sideways shuffle for the length of the court, passing
the medicine ball back and forth. This works your shuffling ability, balance,
strength, and ability to stay low.