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Common Basketball Injuries and Their Immediate Management

Basketball is probably the most popular sport, with millions of basketball fans and enthusiasts all over the world. The sport can be played both indoors and outdoors by fans of any age and sex. Just like any other sports activity, playing basketball has a lot of benefits owing to the amount of physical movement and body coordination being developed when playing the game.

A basketball game, however, is not free from risks. Since it is a contact sport involving intermittent bursts of speed and quick stops and turns, certain injuries can happen during a game.

A 2009 report from the Consumer Product Safety Commission has shown that over 170,000 children who are 5-14 years old are treated in emergency rooms due to basketball injuries. Likewise, a 2010 study has concluded that professional basketball athletes also sustain a high rate of injuries during a basketball game.

Commonly observed basketball-related injuries are as follows:

1. Sprained thumb and other finger injuries

A sprain is an injury to the ligament. You can have a sprained thumb when you use your hand to break a fall, during sudden impact, or simply because of repetitive movements when handling and dribbling the ball. It can limit your ability to move your thumb, affecting your ball handling. Pain, stiffness, swelling, and bruising can also manifest in the affected thumb.

Other finger injuries include minor cuts, jammed finger, dislocation, and fracture. Fractures must be ruled out through an X-ray even if you already suspect a case of sprain, dislocation, or jammed finger, just to confirm.

For mild sprain of the thumb, applying a thumb splint might suffice. Immobilization and splinting of the affected fingers must be done immediately to prevent further damage. If the injury is severe, a surgical intervention might be needed.

2. Ankle sprain

Lateral ankle sprain injuries are the most common basketball injuries. You can sprain your ankle during a sudden twisting motion, or when you lose footing, causing your foot to roll inward or outward. An ankle sprain can be mild or severe, depending on the damage the ligament sustained.

The signs and symptoms of ankle sprain include bruising, swelling, pain, tightness, and limited mobility of the injured ankle. A simple principle applies to the immediate management of ankle sprain.

  • Rest. Limit the movement of the injury to prevent it from worsening
  • Ice. Apply a cold compress to limit the swelling
  • Compress. Wrap the ankle with an elastic compression bandage for immobilization
  • Elevate. Keep the affected ankle elevated to reduce the swelling through gravity

3. Muscle strain

A muscle strain, also known as a muscle pull, happens when your muscles are stretched beyond their threshold, resulting in a tear in the tendons or muscle fibers. Muscle strain injuries commonly affect the muscles in the lower back (lumbar muscles) and the muscles at the back of your thighs (hamstring muscles). You are more at risk of suffering from a muscle strain if you didn’t perform proper warm-up exercises.

In muscle strain injuries, you might experience a snapping sound, pain and tenderness, bruising, and swelling. The same RICE principle applies in the immediate first aid management for muscle strain.

4. ACL tear

Your anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) prevents your shin bone (tibia) from sliding forward off your thigh bone (femur). The ACL is important in maintaining the stability of your knees. When there is a tear in the ACL, your knees might buckle and give way. Research has shown that the incidence of ALC injuries is more common in women athletes compared to men. Injuries to the ACL can happen during sudden deceleration and awkward landing.

An ACL tear is painful. You might hear a pop when the knee slips out of its joint. Other signs and symptoms include severe swelling and painful movement. The RICE principle still applies in the first aid treatment of a suspected ACL tear injury. Depending on the severity, the treatment options can range from having to wear a knee brace to undergoing a surgical repair.

5. Achilles tendonitis

Since basketball involves a lot of running, jumping, and landing, you are not exempted from suffering from overuse injuries. Your Achilles tendons connect your calf muscles to your heel bones. Achilles tendonitis is a common overuse injury that results in inflammation of your Achilles tendons. You are more likely to have Achilles tendonitis if you don’t stretch and warm-up your calf muscles adequately before playing.

The signs and symptoms of Achilles tendonitis include swelling, dull ache in the calf muscles, and pain that worsens with movement. The RICE principle also applies in the first aid treatment of Achilles tendonitis. To reduce the inflammation of the Achilles tendon, you might need to take non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen.

In order to prevent these injuries, make sure that you are physically prepared before a game. Do not forget your warm-up exercises. Always keep yourself hydrated with water and electrolytes. Wear snug and well-padded basketball shoes. Before returning to the game after an injury, make sure that your symptoms are completely relieved. Otherwise, wait for full recovery.