Two basketball players playing a pickup game

Your Health | 3 months ago

Don’t Get Sidelined: Tips to Stay in Peak Physical Condition and Avoid Basketball Injuries

Whether it’s shooting hoops in the driveway, meeting up for a pick-up game or participating in competitive basketball games, these tips from Jeffrey Ham, DO, with Atrium Health Musculoskeletal Institute, can help prevent injuries, ensuring a safe and successful game.


Most of us have either played or attended a basketball game at some point in our lives and are familiar with the excitement of this fast-paced sport. Basketball is great for cardiovascular health, but without applying proper safety precautions it can result in injuries that could sideline you for the rest of the season. Jeffrey Ham, DO, a sports medicine physician with Atrium Health Musculoskeletal Institute, shares some of the most common injuries that he’s seen on the court along with several tips to stay injury-free on the court.

Q: What are some of the most common types of injuries from playing basketball?

A | Dr. Ham: Some of the most common injuries that I see in basketball players can be broken down into upper extremity and lower extremity. There are also different Injuries that are more commonly seen in developing athletes:

  • Injuries from the basketball itself often impact the hand. Whether it’s dislocating the finger or tearing the ligament connected to the finger, these injuries can come from the direct force of the basketball.
  • Other lower extremity injuries that I see are patellar tendonitis (also called jumper’s knee) – an injury to the tendon connecting your kneecap (patella) to your shinbone.
  • We also see an abundance of anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injuries, especially in young women.
  • Shin splints are another very common injury that we see from too many jumps and running.
  • And on occasion, we see stress fractures to the lower extremity.
  • In a developing athlete or a growing athlete (those ages 16 and younger), I see what’s called patellofemoral pain syndrome, which is a tracking abnormality due to a muscle imbalance in the lower extremity, as well as the hips.
  • When children practice or train too much, we see a lot of growth plate injuries as well as inflammation of the plates.
  • The last thing that I commonly see in basketball players are concussions. They're still quite prominent just because hits to the head, to the floor, or to the basketball goal itself.

Q: So, what are some common treatments that you use?

A | Dr. Ham: Common treatments that we do for all athletes, especially things that they can do for themselves, would be a mnemonic called PRICE:

Protection, Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevate.

Using this treatment, we can make sure that patients protect the joint as much as they can, whether that's a sleeve, a brace, a walking boot, those types of things, and also physical therapy to help with the range of motion. Following protection, we want them to rest it for the first couple of days. Ice is also important. And then compress it as much as possible and finally elevate it to get some of the swelling as well as the bruising out of the joint.

Athletes should see a doctor when their body just tells them that something isn't right. Athletes know their bodies better than anyone else. But really just trust your body and if you feel like something's not right, or you're not recovering like you feel like you should come see us right away.

Q: Are there any strengthening or conditioning that can be done to prevent injuries?

A | Dr. Ham: Things to prevent injury we think about are strengthening certain muscle groups. And those muscle groups are to help with mechanics so that when an athlete is running or jumping we're not loading a particular spot of the body more than a different spot. One big thing that we work on, especially with our female athletes, is landing techniques. So, making sure that every time they land they do so with both knees facing forward.

Q: How can you recover from an injury if you do have one?

A | Dr. Ham: Ways of recovering from an injury would be relative rest for the first couple of days, but also cross training. If something's hurting, then you can hop on a bicycle or an elliptical. Do things that keep your endurance up but also to protect it as much as possible.

Other things that you can do to help would be to start working on your range of motion. You want it to start as a gentle pain-free range of motion and slowly increase it. And finally, you're likely to start working with a physical therapist to strengthen and get that joint moving again in a very strong and dynamic fashion.

Q:  What can basketball players do to make sure they stay fit and healthy?

A | Dr. Ham: I think a big way for basketball, or any athlete, to stay fit and healthy is to live a healthy lifestyle. They're already athletes so they're already taking care of the movement component of a healthy lifestyle.

The other component would be to take care of themselves. Ways that they can do that is with adequate hydration, as well as adequate foods. They should also make sure they're eating before practice and after practice, as well as drinking water before and after practice.

Another big component would be sleep. Sleep is critical for athletic performance and recovery. Most adolescents aren't getting enough sleep to begin with. If you're looking at a 10-12 year old, they should be sleeping about 12 hours a night. And if you're looking 12 years and older, they should be sleeping about 10 hours a night.

If you're not getting enough sleep, you are increasing your risk of injury because it hurts your coordination, your ability to focus, and it can lead to some inability to be elastic.

Big details that I want people to consider is use sports medicine as a guide through the process. We know the athletic body very well. We know the biomechanics very well. We can help them with recovery. We can help them with treatment, and we can also help them prevention hopefully of injuries to make sure that they have good biomechanics when they do return to sport or when they start sport in general.