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Common Basketball Injuries

Each year, while pro basketball players defy gravity and college basketball players fight to survive until tournament time, high school and recreational athletes take to the courts in organized leagues and competitive games of their own.

Like the pros and college players, high school and recreational athletes are subject to injuries from the game's:

  • Short, intermittent bursts of activity
  • Quick stops and starts
  • Physical contact

So, if you're planning to play hoops, be aware of the most common basketball injuries and how to treat them.

Ankle Sprains

When the foot is forcibly rolled inward or outward, ligaments that hold the ankle in place can overstretch or tear, resulting in an ankle sprain.

​Symptoms Treatment​
  • Pain on the overstretched portion of the ankle
  • Swelling
  • Bruising
  • Tenderness
  • Warmth to the touch​
  • Rest
  • Ice
  • Compression
  • Elevation (for the first 24 to 48 hours post-injury)​

Achilles Tendonitis

Achilles tendonitis is a common overuse injury in basketball, due to the forces placed on the tendon from jumping and landing.

The Achilles tendon is the fibrous structure that attaches the calf muscle to the heel of your foot. It allows the calf muscle to pull your heel off the ground and push forward while walking, jogging, or running.

Achilles tendonitis occurs when you don’t stretch your calf muscles properly.

​Symptoms ​Treatment
  • A dull ache or pain in the back of the leg, just below the calf muscle
  • Pain that increases after activity
  • Some diffuse swelling ​
  • Rest
  • Ice
  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medicine, such as ibuprofen
  • Orthotics
  • Taping to prevent further damage
  • Rehabilitation ​

Patellar Tendonitis

Patellar tendonitis is a common overuse injury in basketball that affects the tendon connecting the kneecap (patella) to the shin bone.

The patellar tendon, along with the quadriceps muscle and tendon, provides the strength for straightening out the knee.

Patellar tendonitis occurs when repeated stress is placed on the patellar tendon. The stress results in tiny tears in the tendon, which the body attempts to repair.

But, as the tears in the tendon become more numerous, the body can't keep up, causing the inflammation in the tendon to worsen.

Symptoms​ ​Treatment
  • Pain directly over the patellar tendon
  • Pain with activities, especially jumping or kneeling​
  • Rest
  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medicine, such as ibuprofen
  • Stretching of the quadriceps, hamstrings, and calf muscles
  • Ice treatments
  • Use of support straps or braces​

Muscle Strains

Muscle strains, or muscle pulls, occur when an athlete stretches the musculature beyond its normal limit, or a load is placed on the muscle that the muscle is not strong enough to counteract. This results in a strain or tear of the muscle fibers.

A muscle strain can occur in any muscle, and can result from physical activity without proper stretches and warm-ups beforehand.

Symptoms​ Treatment​
  • Sharp pain in the muscle
  • A popping or snapping sound
  • Tenderness to the touch
  • Swelling
  • Discoloration​
  • Rest
  • Ice
  • Compression
  • Elevation
  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medicine, such as ibuprofen, if necessary ​

Diagnosing muscle strains:

Muscle strains are diagnosed by:

  • Obtaining a thorough history of the injury
  • Palpation of the anatomy to detect pain and defects in the muscle
  • Strength and flexibility testing
  • An MRI (on more serious strains) to determine the extent of the tear

ACL Tears

The anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) is the primary restraint that limits how far the shin bone (tibia) slides forward in relation to the thigh bone (femur). When the ACL tears and that restraint no longer exists, the knee becomes unstable and may unpredictably buckle or give way.

A common knee injury in basketball, the ACL may suddenly tear without warning when an individual:

  • Decelerates
  • Cuts to the side
  • Lands awkwardly
​Symptoms ​Treatment
  • An audible "pop" at the moment of injury
  • The slippage of the knee out of its joint
  • Severe swelling
  • Painful movement ​

Treatment may be surgical or non-surgical, depending on your desired lifestyle. The question is not so much your level of activity in the past, but the expectations for the future.

  • Surgical: If your goal is to continue an active lifestyle, surgery may be the treatment of choice because a torn ACL does not heal
  • Non-surgical: Therapy consists of a period of protective bracing, with progressive return to the range of motion and muscle-strengthening exercises. The goal is to create natural stability for the knee by developing the quadriceps and hamstring muscles.


Finger Injuries

Finger injuries range from simple cuts to bone, tendon, or ligament damage. X-rays may be taken to confirm a fracture.

If not properly treated, finger injuries can lead to deformity and permanent loss of function.

Symptoms​ ​Treatment
  • Pain over the injury site
  • Inability to move the finger
  • Bruising
  • Swelling
  • Deformity​
  • For non-serious injuries, "buddy tapping" and/or splinting for everyday activities
  • For some finger injuries, surgical repair of the tendons to restore function ​

For athletes who have experienced sports-related injuries, UPMC Sports Medicine's orthopaedic surgeons, board-certified athletic trainers, and physical therapists will help to speed recovery and restore function. Call 1-855-93-SPORT (77678) to schedule an appointment.

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