NBA / Jul 21, 2010 / 4:26 pm

How To Prevent Injuries: 10 Ways to Stay in the Game

Let’s face it … the last thing you want to be doing during the big game is sitting on the bench. Kendrick Perkins is just one of the unfortunate souls who recently had to miss a big moment (Game 7 of the NBA Finals) to heal an injury. But at the same time, playing hard and fighting for a win inevitably increases your chances of getting injured and landing on the bench.

So what exactly makes an athlete more susceptible to injury? Pivoting. Moving suddenly. Falling. Jumping. Landing poorly. A Ron Artest elbow to the face. Being tripped by a defender. Contact with other players. Basically, when you’re on the court, it’s likely that you will get injured at some point. In fact, it’s highly unlikely that you won’t at least sustain some kind of minor injury.

Knee injuries, ankle injuries, and injuries from overuse and trauma to the joints are some of the most common culprits. Hitting your knee, twisting it, and landing are all common sources of knee injuries. Tripping and rolling your ankles often lead to ankle sprains and fractures. Overusing any area of your body can lead to an overuse injury, but is unfortunately quite common to the knee. And then there are trauma injuries. Basically, getting hit in any area of your body or landing forcefully on or against another surface can cause a trauma injury.

So that’s the bad news. The good news is that there are quite a few things that you can do to prevent this from happening to you. Even in the event that you are injured, if you take the necessary precautions to prevent getting injured, you could lessen the severity and minimize your bench-warming minutes.

Warm up AND cool down
Warming up does just that — it warms up your muscles and prepares your body for exercise. Muscles and tendons that are not properly warmed up do not stretch as much and are more likely to tear during intense activity. Exercising without warming up also makes premature fatigue more likely.

Cooling down has similar effects. Returning your body close to its resting levels will allow for more oxygen to be used more effectively post-exercise. Stretching during this time is especially effective since the body is already warm, and it can prevent some stiffness following the exercise bout.

Stretching both the ankle and calf muscles can be helpful to preventing an ankle injury. However, stretching your entire body, especially your knees, back, neck, and shoulders will help you prevent the most injuries.

Improve your muscle balance and strength
Lots of athletes overlook the importance of keeping their muscles in balance. One of the major risk factors for an ACL injury is a muscle imbalance between the quads and hamstrings. It’s also important to keep balance between other opposing groups like abs/back and biceps/triceps. Maintaining balance between opposing muscle groups makes it less likely to pull a tendon or ligament.

Wear the right shoes
Wearing the right shoes can help prevent ankle injuries by providing necessary support. This will help provide a stable platform and prevent the ankle from rolling. Jumping and landing is another common injury that can be avoided by wearing a shoe with good shock absorption.

Wear a mouth guard
In a high-contact sport, it’s easy to lose teeth if you don’t protect yourself properly.

Wear the right equipment
If you’ve had past injuries or have an unstable joint, don’t forget to or hesitate to wear a brace. Wearing a brace to support the joint will help prevent future injuries and keep you in the game! But make sure you wear it properly … not too tight, not too loose. And just FYI, wearing a brace that you don’t need can actually cause an injury.

Scope out the court
Make sure there is nothing on the court that you might trip or fall on. This is especially important when playing outdoors. Pay special attention to uneven surfaces where you might lose balance.

Drink up!
Keeping your body hydrated with sports drinks will allow you to perform better and prevent injuries from heat cramps, muscle cramps, and dehydration. And staying hydrated also helps prevent other injuries.

Stay in shape…
…and if you don’t, start out again slowly. Staying in shape keeps your body strong enough to avoid injuries more readily. If you haven’t worked out or trained in a while, just start out slowly and increase your workload progressively to prevent injury from overuse.

Don’t try to tough it out
Follow a physician’s advice on whether or not to stay in the game. Playing with an injury makes you more susceptible to an even more severe injury or multiple injuries.

*** *** ***

So, what happens if you do sustain an injury? It really depends on the type of injury and the severity. For a knee injury, recovery could last anywhere from weeks to months. In the most severe cases, surgery may be required. Ankle injuries usually require less time to recover, but still can range up to a couple weeks for recovery. Trauma and overuse injuries have varying recovery periods. In all cases, the injured joint or area generally should be rested and iced.

Ultimately, remember to talk to a doctor for the treatment of all injuries on an individual basis and to allow for enough recovery time to prevent re-injury. I know, I know … they never tell you what you want to hear. But they usually know what they’re talking about, so listen up and make sure you follow their advice. You don’t want to end up on the court, feeling like crap, not playing 100 percent, only to re-injure yourself. Later on, once the injury is healed, you may need to regain strength with mild weight training exercises. So if you want to maximize your time on the court, take care of yourself, and listen to the professionals when you do injure yourself.

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  • jryu

    “Improve your muscle balance and strength”

    amen.. that’s how i f’d up my knee..

  • control

    Another good piece of advice: Don’t play for the Clippers…that curse is real!

  • quest???

    @control or the knicks….. I like this article, thank you for the advice.

  • http://richjanitorreviewed.org BV

    Warming up is the absolute key – never start strenuous physical exercise without warming up.

  • wadestayin305

    i’m wondering your credentials for commenting on the length of knee/ankle/any injury and its rehab time? you realize it’s way more specific that just hurting your “knee” or “ankle”

  • Three Stacks

    @ post 5:
    this isn’t a diagnosis or instructions for rehab, it’s just certain preventive measures. lighten up.

    This may sound retarded but you also have to learn the correct way to fall. There’s not much you can do if it’s something serious like a 300lb man rolling into your knee, but falling the right way can be the difference between a serious ankle injury and a minor sprain.

    It’s pretty much the same concept as a boxer turning his head the same direction as a punch to “roll with the blow.” I’ve noticed some athletes are just born with a better innate sense of balance/body control and are able to avoid serious injury this way.

  • cb4

    I think this should definitely be number one.

    1) Don’t play WITH or AGAINST garbage players, or people with no basketball experience. This is the most common reason of stupid, AVOIDABLE injuries. If you see some wild buffoon on the court, do your best not to play against him, and never, I mean NEVER, allow him to guard you. Its better to just sub out or stop playing than to let some fool take you out for a couple of weeks, let alone months.

  • LakeShow84

    LMAO @ CB4

    I try to work those guys on the court.. they’re the funnest lol but i know whatchu mean.. I banged knees with a track player because he was runnin all over the place like one of those buffoons.. dude couldnt play to save his life as well..

    Man im 26 now when i was younger i could right into the game and not feel it but nowadays if i dont stretch DAMN is my body done the next day.. but when i DO stretch im not as sore.. something else to think about peeps..

    Stretching is preventive on a lot levels

  • M Intellect

    Stretching is the one! It makes you faster and more powerful too. It increases your elasticity, which gives you more explosion. If you don’t believe me, that crazy French dunker testifies to this too.

    Plus – The more you use a muscle, through weights or sports, the more you tighten and shorten the muscle, and thus limit the range of movement in it’s opposing, or antagonistic muscle. So if you stretch, you get that movement back!

  • cru_thik305

    another very good article

  • fiyaman

    @post 7

    I co-sign

  • asmaticasiatic02

    I took acouple physical therapy classes and the teachers stressed that warming up with a light jog or jumping rope for 5-10 minutes is better for the body than stretching; I say do alittle of both then your all set. On that note I’m recovering from a torn acl, almost a year post surgery. How long did it take to get your hops back and ability to drive to the cup? I don’t know if its a mental thing or because I’m a 2 foot leaper but I have basically no elevation when driving I can almost jump higher off a standstill…its truly a horrible injury….

  • Talented

    I love the post AFTER david lee get injured lol good lookin out though. Definitely always stretch tho yall. At least so you can avoid the avoidable sh*t…somethin crazy can always happen.

  • flyp

    Another solid and helpful article.

  • yoda

    stay away from lamar odom. kobe’s ankle and bynums knee can testify that

  • Mink

    @7 amen, that’s how i fucked up my ankle. 3 months ago and i;m still not 100%

    One thing, i got braces for the ankle but i am wearing one both foot. 6 year ago i sprained my left ankle and recoverd pretty good but after spraining my right 3 months ago i;m a lil scared. So should i just wear the brace on my right or keep on em on boths foot?

  • Mink

    damn my english is crappy Xd

  • http://www.dimemag.com jesse

    well if your injured during a big game and have heart you should play remember isaih thomas hurt his ankle in finals and still played and michael jordan had flu while playing but thats not an injury so you should tough it out in a big game

  • http://www.dimemag.com yoda

    yo dime you should do a redeem team vs dream team article and fantasy fights like charles barkley fights ron artest and whose the bigger icon michael jackson or michael jordan those articles will be sick

  • jimmythesaint

    Hate to say it, but a lot of this advice is vague and very old school … i.e “stretching is good” and hi cut shoes give you better ankle injury prevention.
    Flexibility is a continuum and pre game/workout, if you hold a stretch for more than 5secs the muscle will relax and go to sleep…not ideal before a contact sport! Imbalances do occur and evidence will show much preventive work can be done but only if you stretch in the right proportions … it can really be worth getting an assessment done or at least working on yr tighter side (left/right or front/back etc) Longer duration “Developmental Stretching” can be done post game or even better; just before sleep so the body can ‘remember’ the proportions you have set for recovery. Rest and Sleep are KEY for prevention.
    Stability of ankle is very complex but think about the loss of information for your balance centre (brain) with huge aired or shoxed soles … this is why most advanced/elite NBA players train barefoot and are realising the benefits of lighter/low cut shoes with better floor responsiveness (See LAL 2008/2010 … also to aid recovery & prevent build up of problems KB24 ices his knees and ankles THREE TIMES A DAY when training/playing)
    I had full ankle reconstruction in 2003 and only wear Frees for playing & i lift twice a week in Vibram 5Fingers and my kinaesthetics have never been better.
    Ask questions of your Doc/Physical Therapist next time you roll an ankle … once ligaments have torn/ruptured; their healing is very limited by blood flow so you need to understand more about the lower body’s stability not just the ankle joint … posture and spinal control and particularly glute medius activation (yr side Butt) are vital … get on a foam roller or sit on a basketball there and find the Trigger Points inhibiting proper muscle firing.

    Happy Summer Ballin!

  • OneZero

    I tore my right knee ACL last year playing bbal

    sometimes its just a freak accident, so my suggestion is be careful when jumping folks, and dont try to land on one knee otherwise you’ll hear a disgusting cracking sound.

  • Simon

    @ asmaticasiatic02,

    I had surgery for a torn ACL, lateral meniscus and cartilage in my right knee and I still don’t have the explosiveness I had before, and the surgery was 4 years ago. My biggest problem was not following up on the rehab as much as I should have. Which brings me to a tip for everyone:

    Don’t stop rehab just because you think you are alright! When a doctor says do something 5 times a day, do it. Once I was able to walk, run, cut and jump I basically stopped my rehab. Being in university, it was hard to dedicate the time when I had class (and partying), especially since I wasn’t a varsity athlete or anything.

  • james p

    This year I got injured about once a month . No lie. Ive really been injured before. I stretched to. I think I was just out of shape 4 quick basketball movements

  • YeaEyeCEDit

    Dime’s gonna have people taking advice and playing ball in a damn bubble suit!!!

  • OneZero

    @Three Stacks

    just read yours, and ditto. There is such thing as a correct fall, some people just dont know how. Usually you just have to let your body hit the floor but try to reduce the impact by a little rolling motion, and try to land with your bicep. So difficult to explain it though, it comes from experience.


    here here fella, me too, but I’m 4 months only from the surgery, my therapist said its should be 6 months until I can do high impact sport
    I do read a lot of people saying it will take about a year, but I personally think it can be less than that as long as you do your rehab and just be confident.
    but my therapist say it will be 6 months and so far, I am optimisic as I can feel my knee alot better, only still weak.

    yes its a horrible injury, but I learn alot from this experience, it sucks, but Im just trying to look for the positive side.

    on a side note, I play bball and soccer without one ACL(6 months after injury and partial menisectomy) for about a month numerous times before the doctor told me to do the ACL ops or I will risk screwing it up. (so I had 2, not because I F’d it up, but because of the dumb first doctor)

    and me without one ACL was great enough, so I am encouraged as with a new ACL, I should be blasting again.

  • OneZero

    @ Simon
    absolutely spot on

    also, warm up is very underrated. its those little things that you took for granted and forgot to do.

  • Chise

    Great article.

    Co-sign @7. I hate playing with bad people, it can’t make you better and it can easily get you injured.

  • rellz

    STRETCH and WARMUP man…most important thats how i ruptured my achilles smh