By Jason Zinn
The game of basketball has changed a great deal since James Naismith first conceived the idea back in the late 19th century. One of the most recognizable ways the sport has evolved over time - even in the past few decades - is the increased speed and intensity that players move with on the court. The fast pace and exciting nature of basketball has drawn many to participate and has made it one of the most popular sports in the world, but its widespread appeal comes with a cost: more overall injuries. The higher numbers of athletes playing basketball and many of the fast-paced, demanding movements necessary to the game make for a recipe of greater injury risk in a fairly high-risk sport.
To put matters in perspective, here's a snapshot of the role of injuries in basketball:
To play basketball competitively, players must perform with extreme displays of speed, agility and tenacity. Though every position requires a different set of skills, each player on the court will be running, jumping, making quick changes in direction, and accelerating and decelerating with and without the ball. Though these rapid movements are integral to the game, they are also what put competitive players at risk for injury.
Sports injuries are generally categorized as either traumatic or overuse. Traumatic injuries occur suddenly as the result of a single incident, such as an ankle sprain or ACL tear. Overuse injuries, on the other hand, take place over time due to excessive stress of a body part without proper healing, and include jumper's knee and Achilles tendinitis. Both traumatic and overuse injuries may be seen on the basketball court and can arise in many regions of the body, but here are some of the most common basketball injuries and what we recommend to treat and prevent them:
Ankle sprains are traumatic injuries that occur any time the foot twists or rolls beyond its normal range of motion. This usually happens when a player lands on another player's foot wrong or twists their ankle when cutting. A sprain means that one of the ligaments in the ankle—which connect bones to one another—stretches too far, or in some cases, tears, from excess force. Most ankle sprains (about 80%) are lateral, or inversion sprains, meaning the foot twists inward and causes pain on the outside of the ankle. Ankle sprains can be further categorized into three degrees:
Treatment and prevention
Most ankle sprains will heal with sufficient rest and rehabilitation within 4-6 weeks, and even 3rd degree sprains don't normally require surgery. Problems occur when players return to the court before recovering completely and/or when they don't take proper precautions upon returning. We recommend a course of RICE, physical therapy and bracing to treat ankle sprains and prevent future sprains from occurring:
Bracing is the final ingredient to ensure a safe recovery with a minimal risk for another sprain. Braces and supports protect ligaments as they heal and prevent further damage from occurring, and they are especially important for active basketball players attempting to return to play, as additional stability is needed to keep their ankles safe. BetterBraces offers a wide range of braces that will help treat and protect your ankle sprain, no matter how severe, and get you back on the court safely and quickly. Here are some ideal braces for ankle sprains in basketball players:
|Aircast Airsport: this brace combines compression and stabilization, is easy to apply, and ideal for 1st and 2nd degree sprains|
|Aircast Air Stirrup: considered the "standard of care" for ankle sprains, this brace provides support and compression, and is designed to allow you to continue daily activities while recovering; it's ideal for 3rd degree sprains|
|DonJoy Stabilizing PRO: this lace-up brace can easily fit into any shoe and allows basketball players to move around freely while wearing it on the court; it can be used to prevent a first sprain or when returning to play after an initial ankle injury|
|DonJoy Velocity: this is considered the best ankle brace for basketball players who have previously sprained their ankle seriously and/or those looking to prevent a future ankle injury|
Read on for more information on the best ankle braces for basketball
Treatment and prevention
Jumper's knee can range in severity and may not prevent basketball players from playing right away, but if nothing is done to address the injury, it can become much more serious and interfere with performance. The best way to avoid this injury getting out of control is to follow the RICE protocol, see a physical therapist if the condition doesn't improve and wear a brace to keep the knee stable while playing basketball.
Wearing a knee brace for jumper's knee can also help to treat the initial injury and prevent it from progressing further. Our knee braces, straps and bands apply pressure on the patellar tendon while also absorbing forces on the knee, which will reduce pain and give you the support needed to continue playing basketball competitively. Here are some of our best braces for jumper's knee:
|DonJoy Reaction WEB: this breathable, comfortable brace features a unique elastic web design and flexible hinges for stability and shock absorption|
|DonJoy Performance Webtech Short: the silicone web structure on this brace helps to evenly distribute pressure across the patellar tendon and quadriceps, which stabilizes the patella|
|DonJoy Performance Webtech Knee Strap: the two-part, innovative system of this strap provides all day comfort for pain, and its silicone strap fits with the contours of the knee to evenly distribute pain-relieving pressure on the patellar tendon|
Read on for more information on braces for jumper's knee
Treatment and prevention
Most cases of Achilles tendinitis will improve and eventually heal with a course of conservative (non-surgical) treatment, though this may take some time depending on the seriousness of the injury. Maintaining strength and fitness levels necessary to meet the demands of basketball, as well as wearing proper footwear, will also help to ensure a proper recovery and reduce the chance of initial and future injury. As with many other non-severe basketball injuries, conservative treatment should consist of RICE, physical therapy and bracing.
As improvement continues, your physical therapist may also recommend orthotics or an ankle brace to support your Achilles and prevent future injuries from occurring. Wearing a brace while playing basketball will offer additional support and stability on the court so you can play confidently without worrying about re-injuring your Achilles. Here are some of our top choices from BetterBraces to treat and prevent Achilles tendinitis:
|Aircast Airheel Ankle Brace: constructed with a lightweight and breathable fabric, the Airheel applies pulsating compression during every step, which helps to reduce swelling and enhance circulation|
|DonJoy Double Strap Ankle Wrap: this brace is low-profile and non-bulky, and offers support for the ankle and arch of the foot while playing basketball|
Click here for additional bracing solutions for Achilles tendinitis
Treatment and prevention
As with any injury, it's best to be evaluated by your doctor before making any treatment decisions. Though there are some situations in which surgery may not be needed, the majority of ACL tears require surgical treatment, especially for all young, active basketball players and/or if other parts of the knee are injured. Patients treated with surgical reconstruction of the ACL have long-term success rates as high as 95%, and though recovery may take as long as 10 months, many athletes will be able to return to play basketball at pre-injury levels. Physical therapy is recommended both before and after ACL surgery, to prepare patients for the procedure and to help them on their path back to basketball. Rehabilitation from surgery for ACL tears typically consists of:
After the procedure, most surgeons will give patients a brace to limit knee movement during the rehabilitation process. The surgeon will determine how long this brace should be worn for, and may communicate with your physical therapist to establish a time frame for using the brace. Your physical therapist may also recommend a brace to be worn as you begin basketball training and eventually return to play, which will offer added stability and reduce the amount of time the ACL is in an "at-risk" position for tearing. BetterBraces offers a wide variety of knee braces for ACL injuries and tears. Here are some of our recommendations:
|DonJoy Defiance III Custom Brace: the most popular custom knee brace in the world, the Defiance III is designed for athletes recovering from knee surgeries like ACL reconstruction and is worn by many professional athletes|
|DonJoy Armor Knee Brace with Standard Hinge: this brace is ideal for extremely active individuals who may be recovering from an ACL reconstruction, and is helpful for preventing future ACL injuries|
|DonJoy Playmaker II FourcePoint: using hinge technology, this brace increases the knee's flexibility while also providing stability to reduce risk for injury, and it's ideal for those returning to basketball following ACL injury|
Though many fundamental elements of basketball make it a sport with a fairly high risk for injury, players, parents and coaches must also recognize that a significant amount of injuries can be prevented if proper precautions are taken. Unfortunately, it seems that many coaches are failing to take these necessary steps to reduce injury risk:
Injury prevention programs primarily focus on general fitness, strength, flexibility proprioception (one's ability to sense its body's position and motion in space) and various elements of balance. Physical therapists can create or implement these types of programs, and though it's best to perform them before the start of a basketball season, they can be modified and applied during the season, too. Some of the most effective programs that have been supported by research include the Sportsmetrics ACL Injury Prevention Program, the Knee Injury Prevention Program and the Prevent Injury and Enhance Performance Program. In addition to injury prevention programs, we also recommend the following to reduce injury risk in basketball:
Though it's impossible to completely eradicate all injury risk in basketball, that doesn't mean you're powerless to stop them. Speak to your coach about starting an injury prevention program on your basketball team or see your local physical therapist for any basketball-related injuries and to discuss the importance of prevention on the court.
At BetterBraces, we recommend first seeing your primary care doctor, a physical therapist or another medical professional for a complete diagnosis and evaluation of your injury before making any bracing decisions. Only a medical professional can determine the severity of your injury and instruct you on the appropriate course of treatment—including the possible use of a brace—for effective rehabilitation. This article is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. If you're interested in purchasing a brace from BetterBraces and would like some guidance with the process, call us at (800) 553-5019 or e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org for assistance from one of our brace experts.
BetterBraces, a DJO Global brand, is the top brand in sports bracing for prevention and therapy. Our products are designed by doctors and athletes to help you get back on your feet and stay active. BetterBraces is the innovative and technological leader in orthopedics. Our ultimate goal is to help you get back on your feet and stay active.