How Long Should You Ice Your Knees After Basketball? | Benefits, Alternatives, And More!

Written By on October 18, 2022 — Medically Reviewed By Mitch Torres (PT)

Written by on October 18, 2022 — Medically Reviewed By: Mitch Torres (PT)

From weekend warriors to the pros, most basketball players use an ice bag as their recovery tool of choice. But, this begs the question – how long should you ice your knees after basketball?

Ideally, 10 minutes is the optimal time for applying ice without risking complications. (1) This will help reduce pain and swelling to get your legs fresh for your next game.

Below we’ll talk more about why proper ice duration can give you tons of recovery advantages, and other useful information. Tap on the links to quickly jump into each section:

Benefits of icing your knees after basketball for 10 minutes

Some basketball players place ice on their knees until it melts, thinking that more time is better for recovery, but this is not true.

Just 10 minutes is more than enough to reap the following benefits (1):

Knee joint pain relief

Ice helps to gradually reduce pain by slowing down the nerve signals responsible for it. (2)

That’s why you’ll notice some changes in how your skin perceives the ice pack, from cold to numbness in a matter of minutes. (3)

Can boost healing after a game

It’s normal to have mild swelling on your knee after a game, more so if you aren’t used to working out – this is a body’s natural response. However, you can easily keep this at bay with ice.

Applying ice on your knee narrows down the blood vessels in the area, restricting blood flow. This in turn limits the fluid build-up in your joint, preventing inflammation from settling in. (2)

Keep reading: 3 benefits of icing your knee after a basketball game.

Knee Force Knee Sleeve

How to apply ice on your knees (besides ice packs)

There are other things you can use aside from an ice pack, such as:

Cold compression sleeve

This wearable tech continues to ice your knees while you are on the go. Its built-in compressive fit around your leg also helps in limiting inflammation and soreness. (4)

However, as icing causes numbness, it can lessen your sense of body awareness temporarily. So, we recommend that you wear this kind of knee sleeve after the game, not during it.

Our favorite: The Cocoon Knee Flex Pro thermal sleeve.


person spraying their knee

This spray contains specially formulated menthol that helps reduce pain without actually cooling your skin. (2) It’s convenient and easy to use especially after an intense basketball game.

Ice baths

An advantage of going for an ice bath is that you can dip your legs to allow an intense cooling sensation. However, it requires a bit of preparation as you’ll need bags of ice cubes and a bathtub for it to work well.

Is it normal for your knees to hurt after you play basketball?

Having sore knees after a basketball game can be normal. This is a sign you’ve overexerted your muscle’s capabilities, causing micro damage and inflammation buildup. (5)

However, this isn’t something bad, on the contrary – this type of microdamage promotes muscle growth.

This phenomenon is called delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS). Placing some ice packs on your knees will help keep it under control, and stretching your muscles can ease this pain as well.

Yet, pain and swelling may also be a sign of a knee injury.

Intense or even dull aching pain lasting for days, made worse by swelling, could mean trouble. There are also distinct symptoms to look for depending on which knee structure is involved.

For example, meniscus cartilage tears will make it difficult to straighten your leg. (6) While knee buckling when bearing weight can be a sign of an ACL tear. (7)

If you are experiencing any of those, please get your knee checked by a physical therapist or doctor.

Keep reading: Common injuries in basketball players (and how to treat them).


Should I ice my knees after playing basketball?

Yes, you should ice your knees after playing basketball to help you recover.

How long should you ice your knees after basketball?

You should ice your knees after basketball for 10 minutes.

How do you heal your knees after basketball?

To heal your knees after basketball, make sure to rest and apply ice immediately to promote recovery.

Conclusion: How long to ice knees after basketball?

Icing for 10 minutes is the best timespan to get your knees to recover after a basketball game. More than that it’s unlikely to provide added benefits.

However, any knee joint pain and swelling that lingers for days require treatment from a doctor or physical therapist.


  1. Kuo, Chia-Chi et al. “Comparing the antiswelling and analgesic effects of three different ice pack therapy durations: a randomized controlled trial on cases with soft tissue injuries.” The journal of nursing research : JNR vol. 21,3 (2013): 186-94. DOI: 10.1097/jnr.0b013e3182a0af12
  2. Malanga, Gerard A et al. “Mechanisms and efficacy of heat and cold therapies for musculoskeletal injury.” Postgraduate medicine vol. 127,1 (2015): 57-65. DOI: 10.1080/00325481.2015.992719
  4. Heiss, Rafael et al. “Advances in Delayed-Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS) – Part II: Treatment and Prevention.” “Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness – Teil II: Therapie und Prävention.” Sportverletzung Sportschaden : Organ der Gesellschaft fur Orthopadisch-Traumatologische Sportmedizin vol. 33,1 (2019): 21-29. DOI: 10.1055/a-0810-3516
  5. Cheung, Karoline et al. “Delayed onset muscle soreness : treatment strategies and performance factors.” Sports medicine (Auckland, N.Z.) vol. 33,2 (2003): 145-64. DOI: 10.2165/00007256-200333020-00005
  6. Raj MA, Bubnis MA. Knee Meniscal Tears. [Updated 2022 Jul 18]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan-. Available from:
  7. Evans J, Nielson Jl. Anterior Cruciate Ligament Knee Injuries. [Updated 2022 May 5]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan-. Available from:
Paolo Sarmiento (PT)
Paolo is a physical therapist, educator and fitness enthusiast. He shares his knowledge and experience in helping people deal with health issues, especially with the knee. As health-conscious as he can be, he enjoys long bicycle rides, early morning runs, and a good slice of pizza with extra pepperoni.