It’s that time of year again when the sound of leather bouncing on hardwood fills gymnasiums throughout the region. Basketball is called a “non-contact” sport, but anyone who plays or follows the game knows this isn’t a true a description. Basketball is a very physical sport, perhaps more so now than ever before, and staying healthy for an entire season can be difficult. Just consider last year’s University of Louisville basketball team, where the injury list causing missed time includes an ACL tear, groin tear, broken fingers, concussions, foot fractures, and a few others. Many of these injuries were serious enough to require surgery. Obviously the heightened competition at the major college level plays a role in the frequency of injuries, but high school and junior high athletes are not immune to basketball injuries.
What can you do to avoid missing time due to injury this season? Here three keys to minimizing risk of injury:
- Warm-up and stretching – A brief warm-up routine followed by dynamic stretching can help prevent many of the most common injuries. Research shows that cold muscles and ligaments are more prone to injuries, so warm up with light activity before starting a game or intense practice. Dynamic stretching that mimics the types of movements made during game play improves flexibility and agility while keeping the heart rate up and muscles warm. Not only will flexibility help protect you from injury – it will also help you reach higher toward the basket!
- Strength conditioning – The goal of a strength-training program is not to see who can lift the most weight, but to improve the power and efficiency of muscles that are important to your specific sport. Effective strength training can not only strengthen muscles and improve flexibility, but can also improve bone strength, providing protection against fractures as well as muscle and ligament injuries. Strength training should take place all year, not just during the season.
- Nutrition and hydration – A healthy, balanced diet that includes enough carbohydrates, protein and dietary fat is important to maintain energy needed for exercise and competition. Adequate hydration is key, as even mild levels of dehydration can hurt athletic performance. If you have not had enough fluids, your body will not be able to effectively cool itself through sweat and evaporation. Some general guidelines are to drink 24 ounces of non-caffeinated fluid 2 hours before exercise, drink an additional 8 ounces right before exercise, and while you are exercising drink 8 ounces every 20 minutes. If you wait until you are thirsty during a game or practice, it is too late to catch up with hydration.
For some more information on two very common basketball injuries, ankle sprains and jumper’s knee, check out my basketball injuries video.