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Injuries That Dominate the Court - Navigating Common Injuries in the NBA

NBA players collectively missed more time during the 2020-21 season than in any year dating back to 2009-10, according to ESPN's Kevin Pelton. When it comes to the types of injuries that basketball players are prone to facing, there are several worth noting, though those that involve the knee and ankle are just some of the most prominent injuries that can be found on the courts. From what's involved with these injuries to how they can be prevented and managed, here's what you should know.

From the ankles to the knees

Nearly half of all basketball-related injuries involve the ankle and foot, with ankle sprains being one of the most well-known injuries according to Rehab Associates. All-Star point guard LaMelo Ball of the Charlotte Hornets is just one recent example that showcases how common ankle sprains are, as Ball confirmed an initial diagnosis of a sprained left ankle (and revealed no significant long-term injury) in early October of 2022. With that in mind, it's noted by Rehab Associates that ankle sprains are typically treated with the help of ice, compression, and elevation, (aka ICE) in addition to physical therapy when needed. In regard to Ball's injury, the Hornet's head coach Steve Clifford, stated "We talked about whatever the plan is, you have to be on the rehab," further going on to say, "The better you are with it, the quicker you will get back. He was disappointed but very upbeat. It's just part of the NBA."

Knee injuries, on the other hand, make up 13.8% of all reportable NBA injuries, and involve the most amount of time to recover (averaging out to 9.8 months) - though researchers have said that the return to sport rate for NBA players who suffer from ACL injury is between 84 and 89%. Rehab Associates goes on to explain that the three most common include the anterior cruciate ligament (more commonly known as the ACL), Meniscus, and patella tendon. It’s important to note that a torn ACL typically requires surgery as well as months of physical therapy to return to play, highlighting the sheer impact such an injury can have on a professional's career. The meniscus (defined as the cushioning of the knee joint) may also become injured as well in an ACL injury. On the other hand, patella tendonitis (also known as jumper's knee) is noted to be the most common knee injury, and can typically be resolved with a personal exercise plan from a physical therapist, according to Rehab Associates.

Treatment and prevention

While each injury requires its own individualized treatment based on location and severity, the University of Rochester Medical Center notes that generally speaking, basketball injuries can be prevented in a myriad of different ways. Avoiding overuse, maintaining proper fitness, and only playing when clearance is granted by a medical professional are all paramount when seeking to prevent injury. In addition to treatment and general injury prevention methods, adding massage into a fitness routine may help speed recovery from injury. While this depends on the injury, Dr. Melissa Leber, assistant professor of orthopedics and emergency medicine at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mt. Sinai and director of Emergency Department Sports Medicine explains that in many injuries, the muscles tighten up. In addition to noting that massage is helpful after an injury as it will help restore the muscles to their original length while also loosening them up, Leber says that massage can help prevent further injury by relaxing muscles and helping to take some of the tension/tightness out of them.

When looking to incorporate massage into a fitness routine, using tools such as a foam roller can help to work areas like the back or the hamstrings, while a massage gun can work to better target certain areas. While professional massage therapists can help athletes in finding relief, budget devices can be effective in relieving muscle tension in areas such as the leg and shoulders if the device has enough stall force and many percussions per minute. However, it's important to note that using tools like a massage gun on injured or sensitive areas of the body - such as the spine, ankles, or knees can create or further damage/injury. With that in mind, using your hands to massage delicate areas like the knee and ankle is best.

Injuries are a part of sports, and professional basketball is no exception. With injuries such as ankle sprains and jumper's knee dominating the court, proper treatment and physical therapy - in addition to general injury prevention methods and supplemental recovery efforts - help players get back out on the court in no time.