by Dr. Van Thiel, special to SportsMD.com
Knee injuries are very prevalent among professional basketball players and have even been known to derail careers. Notable players who have sustained injuries in the knee area include the likes of Blake Griffin, Steph Curry and Derrick Rose. From running up and down the court, to grabbing rebounds and pivoting, basketball players are constantly at risk for direct impact or overuse injuries.
Common Basketball Knee Injuries
First, a little anatomy. The knee consists of the femur, tibia and patella and is held together by a series of ligaments and “c-shaped” cartilage cushions that act as shock-absorbers. With the amount of stress basketball players place on their knees, there are plenty of opportunities for inflammation, misalignment and tears to occur in an instant or overtime.
According to a study on injuries in the NBA, patellofemoral inflammation, “runners knee,” was cited as the 2nd most frequent injury among common basketball injuries. Runner’s knee was also the biggest reason for most games missed. This further supports the importance of preparation before training, practice, or a game. Just ask Steph Curry who prescribes to a specific pregame ritual. Especially when hoping to prevent a basketball knee injury, stretching is essential.
The Importance of Stretching
Athletes wholeheartedly believe in the power of stretching; in order to perform at their best, they have to properly prepare their muscles and joints for optimal movement. Without proper range of motion, your joints are less prepared for impact. This is why preventing injury is dependent on flexibility. Both dynamic and static stretches are utilized during warm ups, but serve different purposes. For athletes, doing a dynamic stretching routine prior to any physical activity is preferred. Dynamic stretches like walking lunges typically mimic movements that are performed during training or a game and help to increase your body temperature. Static stretches like hamstring stretches are a great part of a postgame routine because it involves holding a position for 15-30 seconds, elongating the specific muscle in focus.
Another great habit to develop in preventing knee injury is regular foam rolling. Similar to static stretching, foam rolling increases blood flow and reduces soreness. It’s also been proven to be more effective than static and dynamic stretching in increasing flexibility. If you have specific concerns over problematic areas in need of pain relief, it’s recommended to roll those areas longer.
Warmup Regimens for injury prevention
A holistic pregame and postgame regimen not only includes stretches that address the muscles surrounding your knees, but considers all the necessary activities like adequate sleep and rest. For example, drinking at least 15 oz of water a couple hours before playing helps curb dehydration. When our bodies are dehydrated, necessary blood flow to our muscles is decreased, making ourselves more susceptible to injury.
As you put together your regimen for basketball knee injury prevention, make sure to include stretches that promote knee flexibility and strength.
- Warmup: 5 minutes
- Pregame stretches: 30-60 seconds each
- Knee step ups
- Jumping jacks
- High knees
- Butt kicks
- Postgame stretches: 30-60 seconds each
- Quad stretch w/ towel
- Hamstring stretch
- Lumbar bridge stretch
- Foam roll
Take a look at this exercise program for more anterior knee pain for inspiration.
It’s important to note that injury is always possible even with taking the necessary precautions. If your knee pain is minor and you aren’t experiencing other symptoms directly after strenuous activity, it could just be indicative of temporary muscle strain, rather than a serious injury. If your symptoms continue or worsen, it’s best to seek guidance from a professional. On the flip side, overuse injuries stem from repetitive movements and can contribute to a larger issue that could have a lasting impact on your performance. It’s always best to seek help when experiencing any type of knee pain to alleviate symptoms and identify their root cause.
If you’re an athlete that prioritizes stretching to prevent injury, you don’t want anything getting in your way of your performance. Dr. Van Thiel at OrthoIllinois shares those same ambitions for his patients. As a leader in Orthopedics and Sports Medicine, he works to ensure that you continue doing what you love in the best physical shape possible.