Basketball Injuries and How Physical Therapy Can Help

Ask medical professionals about the most common basketball injuries and they are likely to list these issues:

  • Ankle sprains
  • Knee injuries
  • Foot fractures
  • Deep thigh bruising
  • Jammed fingers
  • Facial cuts

The fact that there are injuries in such a physical game as basketball comes as no surprise to most. What does shock many is that according to “the National Athletic Trainers’ Association (NATA), 22% of all male basketball players sustained an injury last year, with 42% of the injuries to the ankle or the foot.”

Most common among all of them were sprains to the ankle or foot, and then injuries to the hip, thigh, and knee. Yet, it is quite surprising to learn that around 60% of the injuries sustained were during practice and only slightly fewer (59%) were during the second half of an actual game.

And what can be gleaned from this information? Most sports injury experts would say that the data proves that proper stretching and warming up, along with building up endurance to cut down on the risks posed by fatigue are quite crucial to the prevention of injuries during basketball practice or games.

Fitness at All Times is Important

Something to note is that anyone who enjoys regular basketball games, or even athletes that play regularly, will probably want to maintain a level of fitness necessary for cutting down on the risks for injury or preventing them entirely. Yet, the offseason can pose some risks to many if they allow their training to slide.

That is why PT, or physical therapy, is a potent resource for injury prevention just as much as it is a tool that can be used to overcome injuries sustained at any time of the year or the season.

What a Physical Therapist Can Do BEFORE Injury

Any physical therapist familiar with sports injuries, and particularly those suffered by basketball players, is going to be able to design a fitness program specific to the needs of the individual player. It is going to be a mixture of aerobics, flexibility training, and strength training, and it is going to also include a physical exam at least twice each year.

A physical therapist is also going to walk their patients through the best methods for warming up and cutting down on the risks for injury, as well as how to do dynamic stretching before the practice or the game, and static stretching as part of a cool down once active play is done.

What a Physical Therapist Can Do AFTER Injury

If a basketball player does sustain an injury during a practice session or a game, a physical therapist must be seen as a major player in the recovery process. Yes, a physician can help address that injury, but it is the PT who can address the recovery process. Just consider what they do for the most common basketball injuries:

  • Ankle Sprain – The number one injury to basketball players during games and practice sessions, it is usually treated with RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation), a brace, and physical therapy. The therapist is viewed as a key component to the treatment and will work with the basketball player to eliminate or at least reduce pain and inflammation, stabilize the ankle, restore balance, and ensure that range of motion remains as full as possible. The treatment will include muscle strengthening, movements specific to basketball, and ankle injury prevention programs.
  • Knee injury – The most common is called Jumper’s knee and is when the joint is overused and leads to pain and stiffness, as well as aching. It can be quite severe and actually prevent the individual from playing. It, too, is usually treated with RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation), a brace, and physical therapy. The physical therapy for this injury is going to first look at whether or not the player should even play, and then incorporate stretching of the hip and knee, strengthening of the quadriceps, training specific to basketball movements, and modalities like ultrasound to eliminate pain.
  • Achilles Tendinitis – This is a painful overuse injury that occurs when the tendon that connects the calf muscle to the back of the heel is overused. It causes aching in the leg and just above the heel, and may even feature some tendon swelling. It is also treated by RICE, bracing, and PT. Physical therapy involves an evaluation that allows the therapist to design a custom treatment. This is often meant to ensure that strength, flexibility, and pain or swelling can be brought under control. The PT will usually rely on a range of motion exercises, strengthening movements, manual therapy that manipulates joints, and ankle mobility training. Basketball-specific training is also used and meant to train the player to perform the riskiest movements safely.
  • ACL tears – A very common sports injury, it is often caused when the player lands incorrectly, changes direction swiftly or collides with someone on the court. This is a very painful injury that causes loss of range of motion, discomfort when walking and swelling. Surgical intervention is often needed and physical therapy is used before and after it is done. It will usually include weight-bearing training, strengthening exercises and range of motion exercises.
  • Thigh bruising – This may not seem like an issue for the physical therapist, but some of the difficulties associated with the injury can be alleviated by a PT. Contusions are common in basketball and treatment is usually RICE and some physical therapy. The PT is going to involve the use of light training, use of compression sleeves, and the development of a stretching or even a yoga program, alongside weight training, to reduce the effect of the injury.

It can be almost impossible to prevent injuries during basketball games. However, the information here should help anyone who is injured or worried about the most common risks to know what to do, and to rest assured that there is treatment. Partnering with a PT, if you are a regular basketball player, is also a very savvy choice.

How Can Motus Help?

Motus employs physical and occupational therapy specialists who can help limit the impact of median neuritis on your life now, as well as in speeding recovery if surgery is best route for you.


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