Are you a basketball player who hasn’t been able to play due to quarantine? After an unpredictable year due to COVID-19, are you ready to get back on the court and keep playing for the whole season? Here are some strategies to prevent or recover quickly from injuries and keep your game in top shape.
We all know that injuries can be dangerous, especially in the lower limbs, and can cause decreased playing time and reduced performance. For some players, those lower-limb injuries can be so detrimental that it can end their careers. Basketball, like other jumping sports, carries a very high risk of injury due to sudden acceleration and collisions. Game studies have shown that basketball players spend more than 20% of their playing time executing high-intensity movements including gesture repetition, abrupt acceleration and deceleration, lateral movements, and frequent jumps.
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Along with the risk of collisions with other players, these maneuvers, which frequently require high speed, power, explosiveness, and agility, can provoke acute injuries through overuse. It has also been assessed that 85% of basketball players experience at least one ankle sprain during their career. The wrong alignment of the hindfoot in skilled athletes has been reported as a predisposing factor for fractures of the bones in your feet.
If you have a foot that is congenitally different from others, you need to take extra care because there is a reported association between metatarsus adductus, in which the front half of the foot turns inward, and stress fractures at the base of the fourth metatarsal, which are the long bones of the foot. Another characteristic that is prone to injury include a high-arched or cavus foot.
Studies on foot morphology have constructed a guideline for preventive measures that reduce the rate of foot and ankle injuries in professional basketball. Here is a list of strategies that can help you prevent injuries and play longer.
Choose the Right Footwear
The structure of the basketball shoe is very important in reducing the risk of injuries and improving overall performance. A better shoe cushion or softer midsole helps reduce the risk of injury during unanticipated situations on the court. Similarly, a high shoe collar, increased shoe traction and forefoot bending stiffness is important in improving the stability of the ankle when jumping. Weight can also be factored in with shoes with a lighter mass aiding in better jump performances over a heavier mass.
Podiatry specialist Dr Richard T. Bouché has identified the key components for a general court shoe as follows:
- Ability to counterbalance the excessive pronation which occurs during sideward movements.
- Adequate heel and forefoot cushioning for better shock absorption and coziness.
- Optimize bending stiffness in the midfoot region but should be with torsional flexibility.
- Optimum grip to avoid foot interlocking and slippage.
Depending on their tasks during the game, players are categorized into different categories, which carry a specific role. The taller-than-average height of basketball players places diverse demands on their footwear. These demands need to be analyzed in light of the specific movement characteristics of the basketball game, which have been examined with in-game analyses and biomechanical studies. Regardless of their position, all players rated stability as the most important basketball shoe characteristic.
Wear Ankle Braces
The most common injuries encountered in basketball are ankle injuries, which can not only injure the player in the short term, but also affect them long after their playing career is over. Ankle injuries can develop chronic ankle instability, increased likelihood for the onset of osteoarthritis, decreased levels of physical activity, and a lower quality of life.
The lace-up ankle brace is constructed of synthetic fabric. It is worn over a pair of socks and laced in the front of the foot like a shoe. Although the ankle is the most susceptible part to injury in basketball, ankle braces are worn by only a few players. The most likely reason for this is that the players expect the shoe itself to provide sufficient ankle support without the need of additional supportive braces.
The use of a lace-up ankle brace helps reduce the chance of injury, but does not diminish the severity of an ankle injury when it occurs. This type of protection is consistent in athletes both with and without a previous ankle injury. Although the use of the brace is associated with a lower incidence of major problems it tends to increase the risk of minor injuries of other lower extremities. Used as a preventive measure, however, ankle braces can be a cost-effective strategy for basketball players.
Body-weight neuromuscular training with resistance-training exercises help emphasize body control during the performance of static and dynamic exercises. Combining core stability with plyometric exercises is a useful approach to develop these body-control skills and increase neuromuscular control.
Core stability refers to the body's ability to uphold and improve trunk position when internal or external forces are applied. Inability to maintain core stability can lead to uncontrolled trunk displacement during movement which can increase knee-abduction motion and torque, putting a strain on the knee ligament resulting in an ACL injury.
To reduce the risk of injury and improve joint awareness, balance, and neuromuscular control, strength and conditioning coaches direct their athletes in plyometric exercises during pre-season and in-season training. Plyometrics is a high-intensity, high-impact training strategy that is devised to enable a muscle to reach maximal strength in minimal time.
According to an article published by sports physical therapist KE Wilk, plyometrics makes use of the stretch-shortening cycle, in which the energy stored during the eccentric-loading phase and stimulation of the muscle spindles are used to facilitate maximum power production during the concentric phase of the movement.
Exercises in these programs are specifically included by researchers based on their injury prevention research strategies. Athletes are taught the correct execution of technique and biomechanical movements to better prepare them for multidirectional activities, to address neuromuscular imbalances, and reduce the risk of serious ligament injuries common in basketball athletes.
During the coaching sessions, a certified health and conditioning trainer should give verbal as well as visual feedback on the accuracy and precision of the technique. Trained administration by experts is essential for the success of injury-prevention programs. Athletic trainers and physical therapists who are trained to recognize lower extremity impairments and faulty movement patterns are often a part of this team. These neuromuscular-training programs are integrated into the warm-up routine to ensure high compliance. Finally, these training programs based on body-weight exercises can be easily integrated into warm-up routines.
Research suggests that if training programs are designed and implemented correctly, it would provide a positive stimulus to enhance the performance of basketball players. Experiments have shown that athletes who were a part of neuromuscular training programs showed significantly greater stability than basketball players who were not involved with these programs.
Neuromuscular training is a useful tool for determining the relative effectiveness of an intervention or training program designed to improve the performance of the athlete and decrease future injury in the lower extremities. It is recommended that coaches and strength and conditioning professionals use this technique in the preparation phase (preseason) to enhance the athlete's joint awareness and consequently prevent possible injury in the lower extremities.
Don’t Push Through the Pain
Athletes are motivated to keep going, pushing through the pain. If there is intense pain during exercise, you might need to wait before playing again. After playing basketball, if you are experiencing pain that makes even doing simple tasks like showering or getting out of bed difficult, you shouldn’t continue playing. Continuing to play with injuries can delay full healing for longer amounts of time. Seeing your doctor after the injury can help make sure that you’re not further straining the hurt bone or muscle.
When to Change Shoes
The use of inappropriate worn-out running shoes has led to increased musculoskeletal problems. Unstable shoes serve as a major risk factor for injury as they provoke variability in movement. But changing the shoes too often is also not a good idea. New shoes are stiff and have balance problems. So, keep in mind how much wear and tear your shoes are showing, but avoid frequent changing of running shoes. Also, an adequate "wearing in" period is recommended for new running shoes because it protects the foot from injuries related to inappropriate footwear.
Although specific training yields better results than cross-training, it is a good strategy to keep you motivated and competitive when injured or fatigued. Cross-training is a widely used approach for several training programs. It tends to improve the performance of the athlete by alternating high-risk sports with low-risk ones.
Alternating training exercises affects the maximum oxygen uptake, which is highly appreciable when running is performed as a cross-training exercise. Cross-training effects never exceed those induced by the sport-specific training mode. For highly trained athletes, specific training yields higher results but cross-training may be highly beneficial in beginners as well as in professional athletes during rehabilitation periods from physical injury and during periods of overtraining or psychological fatigue.
In short, footwear, proper positioning of shoes, and wearing ankle and knee braces help increase the stability of the foot. Increased stability means a reduction in injuries which means more time on the court. If you want to play more and prevent acute as well as long-term injuries, take care of your feet.