Feeling knee pain after basketball can be due to different factors, all treatable, but some may be more concerning than others.
This includes a lack of warm-up, training, and relapses of previous knee injuries. You may also be playing too much basketball and your body hasn’t had time to recover completely.
Here we’ll discuss all the possible reasons why you are in pain and what you can do about it. Tap on the links below to quickly navigate the article:
4 reasons why you have knee pain after playing basketball
The most common reasons behind knee pain from basketball include:
1) You didn’t warm up
A warmup is a preparatory period. It gets your muscles ready for the movement demands that playing basketball requires. It’s also a great time to mentally prepare yourself before the game.
Bypassing this important process might cause your body to move inefficiently, which can lead to knee pain.
Solution: Set aside a few minutes to warm up before a game
Done correctly, a good warmup routine can help prevent knee injuries from happening. Some of the things you should do before your next game are (1):
- Aerobic drills like forward run and skipping for 1 to 2 laps.
- Jumps in place for 8 to 12 reps for agility.
- Strength exercises like planks and walking lunges.
- Single leg ball toss for balance training.
2) Lack of training
Basketball is a physically demanding sport, with lots of sudden stops and drives. If your body isn’t strong enough to handle it, you can easily end up with joint pain. This also increases your risk of developing a knee injury.
Solution: Cross-train with weights and cardio
Cross-training adds variability to your fitness regimen. It also stimulates muscle growth to improve your overall sports performance.
To make you more resilient to the physicality of the game, it’s a good idea to hit the gym a couple of times per week.
Cycling is also a great way to develop your endurance to get you ready for those long and competitive games.
Learn more: 10 great knee exercises for basketball players.
3) Playing too many basketball games
Sometimes our competitiveness gets the best of us and keeps us playing for a couple more games than we intend to.
This, however, could exhaust your muscles and lead to soreness that can linger for days. (2) Pushing past your body’s limit could also make you vulnerable to suffering an injury.
Solution: Do RICE therapy
This means rest, ice, compression, and elevation. It’s a quick and effective way to relieve pain and muscle soreness. (2)
Here’s how to do the RICE protocol for basketball:
- Rest and avoid playing basketball for a couple of days.
- Apply an ice pack or dip your leg inside a cold tub to help with pain.
- Use compression bandaging to reduce swelling.
- Elevate your leg from time to time to also minimize inflammation.
Keep reading: Benefits of icing your knees after basketball.
4) Flare-ups from past injuries
Previous poorly healed injuries could re-occur because of the jumping and running demands of the game.
One example is Osgood-Schlatter’s disease. Although it’s a common injury in children and adolescents, it can flare up during adulthood if it wasn’t treated properly. (3)
Solution: Consult a doctor or physio
Set things right this time by getting an appointment with a medical professional. They could help figure out the root cause and give treatments accordingly.
For minor cases, you might only need to do physical therapy. Physios can help you with therapeutic exercises to eliminate the pain and prevent future relapses.
Other ways to ease knee pain after basketball
There are several treatments for knee pain due to basketball, but the most common include:
Take pain medications
Anti-inflammatory medications stop the chemicals required to continue the inflammatory process. (4) Ibuprofen and celecoxib are some examples.
Cannabidiol can help knee pain too. (5) These products are usually available as oils, creams, and edibles. These have fewer side effects than the previously mentioned medications.
Whichever one you choose, we always recommend consulting your doctor first before taking any medications.
Know more: What to take for knee pain?
Wear a thermal compression sleeve
This garment provides compression and ice/heat therapy at the same time. This combination can reduce pain and swelling effectively and naturally. (6)
Plus, it’s extremely convenient – you just slip it up and go on with your life.
Our recommendation: The Cocoon Knee Flex Pro.
Most common basketball knee injuries
The most common injuries in basketball players include:
This relates to dull pain around the kneecap. It could result from different factors like bone malalignment, or weak hip muscles paired with a repetitive activity like running. (7)
This refers to pain in your patellar tendon, which is right below your knee cap. The cause can be traced from movements like jumping and landing irritating your soft tissue. (8)
One thing that may help is by wearing a knee strap during the game. This type of brace helps lessen tendon strain and improve your sense of position to prevent further injury. (9)
This is an acronym for your anterior cruciate ligament, one of the many structures that stabilize your knee.
These injuries happen usually after being hit on the side of your leg. A poor landing form can also put unnecessary strain on this ligament.
The menisci are rubbery cartilages that act as shock absorbers. Uncontrollably rotating your thigh bone on a planted foot – like when suddenly changing directions – could harm them. (10)
Keep reading: The most common knee injuries in basketball and how to treat them.
Does jumper’s knee go away?
Jumper’s knee can go away, but usually after a few sessions of physical therapy and lower body training.
How do I stop my knee from hurting after basketball?
You can stop your knee from hurting after basketball by applying an ice pack on it right away.
Related: How long should you apply ice on your knee after basketball?
How do you heal your knees after basketball?
You can heal your knees after basketball by applying ice and resting enough. But if the problem persists, visit a healthcare professional.
Conclusion: Why do my knees hurt after basketball?
Disregarding warm-ups, training, pushing through pain, and playing too much are some reasons why your knees hurt after basketball.
But each of these causes has realistic solutions. Taking the time to warm up or resting for a few days may be enough to prevent future incidents of knee pain.
- Emery, Carolyn A et al. “The “SHRed Injuries Basketball” Neuromuscular Training Warm-up Program Reduces Ankle and Knee Injury Rates by 36% in Youth Basketball.” The Journal of orthopaedic and sports physical therapy vol. 52,1 (2022): 40-48. DOI: 10.2519/jospt.2022.10959
- 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
- Vaishya, Raju et al. “Apophysitis of the Tibial Tuberosity (Osgood-Schlatter Disease): A Review.” Cureus vol. 8,9 e780. 13 Sep. 2016, doi: 10.7759/cureus.780
- Ghlichloo I, Gerriets V. Nonsteroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs) [Updated 2022 May 19]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK547742/
- Mlost, Jakub et al. “Cannabidiol for Pain Treatment: Focus on Pharmacology and Mechanism of Action.” International journal of molecular sciences vol. 21,22 8870. 23 Nov. 2020, DOI: 10.3390/ijms21228870
- 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
- InformedHealth.org [Internet]. Cologne, Germany: Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG); 2006-. Patellofemoral pain syndrome (runner’s knee): Overview. 2020 Aug 13. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK561507/
- Santana JA, Mabrouk A, Sherman Al. Jumpers Knee. [Updated 2022 Sep 25]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK532969/
- de Vries, A et al. “Effect of patellar strap and sports tape on pain in patellar tendinopathy: A randomized controlled trial.” Scandinavian journal of medicine & science in sports vol. 26,10 (2016): 1217-24. DOI: 10.1111/sms.12556
- Raj MA, Bubnis MA. Knee Meniscal Tears. [Updated 2022 Jul 18]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK431067/