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Basketball Injuries:
Avoiding and Treating Them

Basketball injuries are part of the game - it's a start-stop, multi-directional game that can be very hard on a player's body, particularly the joints. And no coach wants to see players sidelined throughout the year, especially late in the year when it's getting close to basketball playoffs.

So it becomes very important for the coach to do as much as possible to prepare players for the punishment their bodies will take when they step onto the floor. And if we can't prevent those injuries, then we want to treat them properly and quickly to minimize the time the player misses when recuperating.

Simple Ways to Prevent Common Basketball Injuries

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. It's an old saying but a solid one. Here's a few things your players can do to try to prevent those injuries from happening in the first place:

  • Ensure Adequate Rest. This applies to sleep as well as training. Players need enough sleep at night so their bodies can repair all the damage done to them during training. Similarily, players must be careful not to over-train - over working an already tired muscle or joint will lead to injury. Besides which, a tired player will make mistakes - running into other players, not paying attention to what is happening around him - more ways to get injured.

  • Ensure Adequate Hydration. The body needs enough water in its system in order to function properly. Players need to ensure they drink enough fluids - preferably water, and definitely nothing with caffeine - before, during and after practice and games.

  • Wear Good Shoes. Not necessarily the most expensive, but well-made, high cut shoes that are laced up properly. This will help stabilize the most often-injured body part in the game of basketball - the ankle.

  • Always have a Good Warm Up. Good warm ups will prepare the body for the training or game ahead. Use sport-specific warm up exercises - jogging, skipping, carioca - and then some Dynamic Stretching to prepare players' muscles and joints. NBA teams warm up for two hours prior to their games. We may not have the time available to do the same, but we can appreciate the lesson.

Treating Common Basketball Injuries When They Occur

Of course, even with the most meticulous preventative program in place, injuries are still going to happen. So here is how to deal with them:

  • Always have a Certified Trainer on the Bench. Preferably an adult but at least a student trainer who has had training in sports medicine first aid. Spend the money to send them on courses so they are well-prepared. You may also want to purchase some Basic Athletic Training Software for ongoing reference, but it will always pay off if you have someone on the bench during practices and games that is a certified trainer.

  • Always have a Good First Aid Kit on the Bench. Be sure it is well stocked and ready to go (this should be part of the trainer's job) There are a variety of kits available - make sure you have a complete kit, either one you stock on your own, or purchase one. The standard Team First Aid Kit is likely the type we are most familiar with, or maybe try the Mueller Medi Kit Backpack for more mobility. Regardless, make sure it is well stocked.

  • Begin applying R.I.C.E. Immediately
  • Rest the injury immediately
  • Ice the injury - not heat. Heat will cause the swelling to get worse, and we want to contain the swelling as much as we can. The less swelling there is, the sooner the injury will heal. Keep the ice on the injury for fifteen minutes at a time, every two hours for the first forty eight hours. Ideally you will have some Instant Cold Packs in your kit to use at the time of injury. Tell the player that at home he can use a bag of frozen peas or a bag of ice cubes.
  • Compress the injury. Wrap it tightly (don't cut off the circulation!), again so that we contain the swelling as best we can.
  • Elevate the injury. Placing the injury above the heart level will keep gravity from pushing blood into the injured area. Since more than half of all basketball injuries tend to be ankle injuries, this is usually an easy task.

  • The focus is on keeping the swelling down so the recovery process can start. Follow the RICE actions for 48 hours.

  • Take the Player to the Hospital Immediately if you suspect the injury is more severe. The sooner the better.

The more immediate the first aid is, the quicker the recovery time will be. And be sure your players understand the importance of telling you when they are hurt. A player who gets a basketball injury playing pick-up ball over the weekend but doesn't want to tell you because he is afraid of not playing? He's just asking for a more serious injury and longer down time.

The cool down is an important part of the injury prevention process as well. Stretching to relax the muscles and allow the flow of blood to take away some lactic acid will help speed recovery time. You should also invest in a few Foam Rollers as well, as they have been shown to be excellent tools for massaging tired and injured muscles and ligaments, and helping them regain strength.

The bottom line? Basketball injuries will happen. Preventative measures won't stop them all, but it will stop many of them, and lessen the impact of those injuries that do occur. And good, immediate treatment will help speed recovery, so players are not out of action for long.

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""Train, don't strain."
- Arthur Lydiard

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