Carla L. Matthews, MHSA, M.ED
Johns Hopkins University – School of Medicine
Department of Orthopedic Surgery and Sports Medicine
(This column is only designed to give you a broad spectrum of common orthopedic injuries. It should not be used as a diagnostic tool. You should always refer your pain and/or injuries to a board certified orthopedic physician for further evaluation.)
COMMON HIGH SCHOOL BASKETBALL INJURIES:
High school basketball comes with its share of injuries. Basketball is an aggressive, fast-moving sport. In spite of the foul rules, players still collide, land on each other’s feet, elbow and shove, and trip and fall on their way to the ball. It’s all part of the game of getting possession and making one’s way down the court.
Collisions and contact aren’t the only causes for injury. Intense sprints, starts and stops, lunges, reaches, and pivots can all lead to muscle, tendon, or ligament strains. Handling the ball can lead to jammed fingers. Landing after layups and jump shots can also be hard on the knees and ankles. High school basketball doesn’t have to be hard on a young player’s body, however. If you know the most common injuries, you can prepare yourself with conditioning and equipment. Smart play can also help to minimize accidents on the court.
Some COMMON HIGH SCHOOL BASKETBALL INJURIES
Pulled muscles are some of the most common injuries in any high school sport. These soft-tissue injuries are most likely to occur when you stretch your muscle past its normal limit. They’re even more common when muscles are worked out “cold,” meaning they haven’t been sufficiently warmed up before play or stretched after and between workouts. In basketball, a muscle strain can happen any variety of ways. For example, you might:
- Overstretch a back muscle when you pivot and dodge to keep the ball away from an opponent.
- Pull a thigh muscle when sprinting or lunging.
- Strain a calf muscle when springing upward to make a jump shot.
Strains can also happen when a muscle is subjected to a load (weight, pressure, or force) it doesn’t have the power to counteract. In basketball, this could happen during a bad fall against a hard floor. It could also happen if you’re pushed or shoved by an opponent and you try to push back using a muscle that isn’t strong enough for the task at hand.
In most cases, muscle strains can be treated immediately with RICE Therapy (Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation). Take yourself out of the game and let a coach know you need to ice your injury. You can also take NSAIDs (like ibuprofen or acetaminophen) to reduce inflammation and pain. Rest your muscle for a few days to a few weeks until the pain subsides.
In severe cases, a muscle strain may require several weeks of rest, immobilization (for example, using a bandage wrap or splint), and physical therapy rehab. In the case of a complete muscle tear or rupture, surgery may be needed to repair the tissue.
Fingers frequently get hurt in the context of playing basketball. For example:
- Gripping the ball can lead to overuse injuries like tendonitis.
- When intercepting passes, being blocked/fouled, or struggling to keep possession of a ball, players may also jam or stub their fingers or bend them back too far, leading to ligament sprains and or muscle strains.
- Falls or collisions can happen with enough force to cause fractures or cuts.
Finger Injury Symptoms
- Popping or cracking sound
- Inability to move the affected finger
- Visible deformity (the finger is suddenly crooked, for example)
If you’ve injured your finger or have the above symptoms, take yourself out of the game and tell a coach. In the case of a fairly minor injury, first-aid may involve bandages, RICE therapy, and/or taping two fingers together to immobilize and stabilize the injury. See a doctor as soon as you can to diagnose the injury and prevent further damage or future problems using your finger or hand.
ANKLE INJURIES: ANKLE SPRAINS AND ACHILLES TENDONITIS
With all the sudden pivots, shifts, turns, and jumps involved in basketball, ankles are particularly vulnerable to injury. An ankle sprain is also known as “rolling” an ankle, occurs when the foot rolls inward or outward, overstretching the ligaments on the inside or outside of the foot. In the majority of cases, ankles tend to roll outward, tearing the ligaments that run along the outer edge of the foot.
This can happen in a game when you land awkwardly on a jump shot — most commonly, if you come down on another player’s foot. The contact with the uneven surface can make your landing unstable, causing the ankle to roll.
Sprained Ankle Symptoms
- Popping sound
- Warmth over the injury area
- Tenderness when you touch the ankle.
Some people can put weight on their sprained ankles; others may find it too painful, and could require help getting off the court.
Sprained Ankle Treatment
RICE therapy is the first course of action if you’ve sustained a sprain. Bringing the swelling down is your main goal, along with managing pain and resting the affected ankle. You can continue this treatment for up to 48 hours. See a doctor or orthopedist to rule out more serious injuries like full ruptures, fractures, or damage to surrounding tissue. You may also need rehab with a sports medicine professional.