How to Prevent Basketball Injuries

By Bert Mandelbaum

The right exercises could prevent most basketball injuries.

We know this both from studies on basketball injuries and on injuries in other sports. Recent research has shown that the FIFA11+ can cut injuries in soccer by half. Although nothing as complete exists for basketball, many of the same approaches will work for basketball.

And it seems to work. A 2012 study published in the American Journal of Sports Medicine found that that basketball players trained in FIFA11+ cut their rate of injury by 70 percent.

Watching Stephen Curry pass behind his back or LeBron James score from the wrong side of the backboard,  spectators focus mostly on what players do with their hands.

Most Basketball Injuries Below the Waist

But about two thirds of serious professional and college basketball injuries take place below the waist. As Sports Without Injury reported last week, these players particularly suffer from ankle and knee problems. And in our experience, older recreational players suffer from similar problems.

Jumping puts a lot of strain on these joints.  And in recent years, researchers have developed techniques that can significantly strengthen them.

1) If you already have basketball injuries (or injuries from other sports), start by resting. Switch to swimming or bicycling until the pain goes away.

2) Improve your form when jumping. Land on the balls of your feet with your knees over your feet and not bowed inwards. Maintain this form when running as well. Bend at the knees and the waist, and tuck in your stomach.

Practice this form several times a week. Jump in place.

Vertical Jump by SportsInjuryPrevent1

Then jump side to side, and backwards as well as forward

Box Jump by SportsInuryPrevent1

Finally jump over a basketball, forward, backward and side to side. Do five jumps in each direction three times a week.

3) Practice running side-to-side and backwards. Basketball players don’t spend a lot of time going forward.

Try putting elastic bands around your ankles then walking sideways and backwards to strengthen these muscles.

4) Train your balance. You can reduce the risk of ankle injuries with exercises that work the nerves and muscles in your foot and lower leg. Stand on one foot. Then stand on one foot with your eyes closed. Next try standing with both feet on a balance board or a Bosu ball. Spend at least 10 minutes per session on these balance exercises.

Balance Board Exercise by Stevan Vargas

Here are some more balance exercise videos.

5) Strengthen your core. The muscles in your lower torso are like the hub of a wheel; everything else depends on them. They are especially crucial in protecting your back. Along with knee and ankles, the lumbar spine is among the most common of basketball injuries.

Avoid situps because they can tire your lower back. Practice the yoga plank pose: with only your forearms and feet touching the floor, maintain a straight line from your head to your feet as long as you can hold the position.

Forearm Plank by Expert Village

Practice the same pose on your side. With your right forearm and right foot touching the ground, once again maintain a straight line for as long as you can hold the position. Repeat on your left side.

Sideplank by Expert Village

6) Strengthen your hamstrings. Hamstrings play a crucial role in stabilizing the knee. If you belong to a gym, you can use the weight machines there, lying on your stomach and pulling the weight toward your butt with your ankles.

If you don’t belong to a gym, try the Russian hamstring exercise. Find a friend or piece of furniture that can hold your feet in place while you kneel with your body straight from the knees to the head. Bend forward at the knees until you can no longer hold the position, then straighten again.

Nordic Hamstring Exercise by Marc Sand

You can also exercise your hamstrings using an elastic band attached to a piece of furniture.

Elastic Band Hamstring Exercise by Blake Kassel of

Only do about 10 of these until you see whether your hamstrings hurt the next day. Gradually increase the number as you get stronger.

7) Strengthen your hips. Lie on your side with your hips stacked and your legs straight. Separate your legs like scissor blades.

Lie on your side with your knees bent. Separate your knees with your feet still touching each other, like the mouth of a clam opening. Open and shut 15 times.

Hip Abductor and Adductor exercises by eHowFitness

Finally lie on your left side with your right foot on the ground in front of your left knee. Lift your left leg as high as you can. Repeat 15 times.
Or try this variation:

Hip Adductor exercises by eHowFitness

Repeat exercises 2-7, three times a week. They will go a long way toward protecting your from basketball injuries.

As with any sports, a healthy diet will also reduce the risk of inflammation that results from the strain you are putting on your joints.

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The photo on this page is by Andrew Spillane. Some rights reserved.

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