Basketball is not the most dangerous sport around, but it does have its fair share of associated injuries. The list of promising careers that have been curtailed by injuries on the court is long and makes for sorry reading. That’s without taking into account illness and ongoing conditions that could be exacerbated by playing conditions.
Statistics suggest that on average every high school basketball team will see two players injured every season. Basketball isn’t a contact support like football, but it does put a large amount of stress on the body. To be a professional player requires an exceptional level of physical fitness, and even those playing for fun or at an amateur level should stay in shape to minimize the risk of injury or recurring trauma.
The most common form of injury in basketball is to the foot and ankle, but the most common cause of a player having to miss several games or even retire completely is a knee injury. Ankles can easily be twisted or strained due to slipping or a misstep, or feet can be trodden on, either accidentally or due to a deliberate foul. Lithuanian player Zydrunas Ilgauskas suffered a foot injury in 1996 right at the start of his NBA career, which resulted in him sitting out the rest of that season and permanently impaired his game.
Knee injuries, as suggested above, have curtailed so many basketball careers. Perhaps the worst misfortune befell Shaun Livingston in 2007, who suffered a compound knee injury when he dislocated his kneecap, snapped his left leg, tore his ACL, PCL and his lateral meniscus. Amazingly he recovered and continued playing, but never realized his early potential. Other players who’ve seen their careers blighted by knee injuries include Danny Manning, Greg Oden, Bernard King and Laphonso Ellis.
TJ Ford, whose career spanned 2003-2012, was compared to all-time greats like Magic Johnson and Larry Bird before suffering a spinal contusion while playing against the Minnesota Timberwolves. He continued to play for the San Antonio Spurs, but never reached the heights he once seemed destined to attain. The Hornets’ Larry Johnson was another notable player plagued by back problems.
The best way to prevent injury on the court is through care and preparation. Always warm up appropriately before a game, stretching and loosening up the muscles, especially those in the legs to support the knees. A close-fitting knee brace can help, as can taping up ankles with athletic tape. Always wear high quality basketball shoes with ankle support and good grips to prevent slipping. It’s worth noting that most injuries take place in the second half of the game, suggesting that fatigue is a contributory factor.
Staying in shape
Basketball players follow strict exercise regimes to stay in shape, and this includes watching their diet and having a healthy lifestyle. As a rule, the healthier you are, the more likely you are to avoid significant injury. Blood disorders or deficiencies like anemia can slow you down and prevent you healing: to make sure your blood is healthy a complete blood count (CBC) with differential can be a good idea. What it’s used for is to check your overall health while screening for new or pre-existing conditions and monitoring the effectiveness of any treatment you may be receiving.
Getting the balance right
For professional basketball players, taking care of their mental health can be just as important as looking after their physical well-being. Although stress and anxiety due to the pressure to perform may not be as apparent as a knee or back injury, they can be just as debilitating if not dealt with quickly. Good self-care, including eating well, exercising and taking time out when needed, can benefit the mind as well as the body. In all cases, it’s important not to neglect your health and to make sure that you get enough rest and keep focused.
Prevention is always better than cure, and although some injuries and illnesses can strike out of the blue, there are always precautions we can take against them. The lesson to be learned from basketball history is that injuries, once they’ve happened, can recur or leave behind permanent damage. Too many promising sporting careers, and even lives, have been ruined by injuries that could have been prevented. It’s much better than to try to avoid them in the first place by taking care both on the court and away from it.