Guest Post by:  Brittany Darling, MS, ATC

The squeak of sneakers on the wood floor, a sound that must only mean one thing: basketball season is finally here. As fall sports are coming to an end there is little time for rest and recovery before the long season, and the last thing you want is to start your season off with an injury. Thankfully, there are some injury prevention strategies that can be utilized in hopes of staying healthy through the winter season.

Basketball in hoopThe first step is to ensure your child has all of the essential equipment. Although basketball does not have very many equipment demands when compared to other sports such as football or hockey, there is one important piece: basketball shoes. Basketball shoes are characterized by a higher ankle fit than most athletic shoes, and they also possess a sole specific for the basketball court that will prevent slipping and sliding. The high ankle fit helps to prevent against one of the major basketball injuries, the ankle sprain, which is an injury to the ligaments connecting bone to bone. Very often a child may cut to the side quickly or come down from a rebound and land on another player’s ankle, which results in the inversion or “rolling inward” of their own ankle. This is a frequent injury that can be prevented by wearing ankle braces. The ankle braces that lace up the front and have adjustable straps usually work best and can be purchased at any sporting goods store. They can take some getting used to initially, but are worth it in the long run.

Basketball is a unique sport that requires power, speed and agility. The demands of the sport can sometimes result in an overstretching of the muscle or too strong of a contraction known as a muscle strain. Strains can take place in the muscle itself or in the tendon, which connects the muscle to the bone. The most successful method for preventing strains is an effective warm-up. Especially as the weather is getting colder outside, our bodies need movement combined with proper clothing to get warm before performing quick and explosive activities.  Extra layers such as sweat suits are encouraged! A suggested routine might include 2-3 laps of light jogging around the basketball court, followed by a dynamic warm-up such as walking lunges, walking quadriceps stretches, arm circles, and walking toe touches. With this, the stretch is only felt in the targeted muscle group for a few brief seconds as compared to when you hold a static stretch that lasts 15-20 seconds. A dynamic warm-up combines movement with brief stretches of the selected muscle group. After initial warm-ups are complete, it can be beneficial to stop every few minutes into practice and ask the athletes to pick something that feels tight and give that muscle an extra stretch. It is important to always perform stretches correctly and to understand that everybody is unique in their abilities, so make sure children stay within their flexibility limitations.

Improving flexibility with stretching can help with another common basketball injury known as patellar tendonitis, or “jumper’s knee,” which is characterized by pain beneath the patella (knee cap) usually from repetitive jumping or quadriceps activation. A similar injury seen in teenagers after growth spurts occur is known as Osgood-Schlatter disease, which is diagnosed when there is a small bump formation that is painful underneath the patella. With either of these injuries, applying ice after practices and games can assist with any pain or inflammation as well as NSAIDs such as ibuprofen.

Additionally, since basketball is a physical sport that can involve some contact, a mouth guard is not a bad idea to utilize, especially if your child has braces. Elbows and hands make contact with mouths frequently when scrambling for a rebound and can cause significant damage to a child’s teeth. They may also experience contusions or bruises from this sort of contact. Compression sleeves with built in padding are made for knees and elbows and can provide some comfort and support to children who fall on the court frequently.

Before retiring cleats for sneakers, remember some of these resourceful tricks that can help your child perform to the best of their ability and stay healthy. Unfortunately not every injury can be prevented, so when one does occur be sure to consult your Athletic Trainer or Physician.