It can take months to recover and get back to game shape after a leg injury. But it’ll only take a few minutes of your time to learn how to prevent knee injuries in basketball.
Improving your fitness level and keeping up with your hydration are good starting points. Having a good pregame warm-up routine also certainly helps.
Here are 7 easy preventative tips you can learn today, knee injuries to look out for, and more:
7 tips to prevent knee injuries in basketball players
Add these life hacks to your sports routine and stay injury-free inside the basketball court:
1) Warm up properly
A warm-up is any activity you typically do to get your muscles ready for the game. Most players opt to do basic stretching exercises, but adding in some strength and balance drills seems to be a better alternative. (1)
Here are a few exercises you should add to improve your warm-up routine (1):
- Forward runs to increase body temperature.
- Jumps in place for agility.
- Walking lunges to prep your muscles.
- Single-leg stance for balance training.
2) Do dynamic stretches before each game
Dynamic stretching helps improve flexibility and game performance. It can also prevent muscle injuries, like hamstring strains. (2)
These stretches are done by moving your limb through its full range of motion at a controlled speed. The goal is to activate the joint and muscles, preparing them for the physical activity you’re about to do.
Keep reading: Best knee stretches for basketball.
3) Be consistent with strength training
Having strong muscles helps in maintaining good form and reducing injury risk. But to see lasting results, you have to stick with a good workout regime for a few months or so.
I know that sounds anti-climatic, but great things usually take time. To get you started, here are some knee-strengthening exercises you can easily do at home:
- Bodyweight quarter squats.
- Lateral lunges.
- Heel lifts.
Want more? These are the best exercises to strengthen your knees for basketball.
4) Cross-train with other sports
Cross-training is about pairing other types of sports/activities to support basketball. It’s a great way to develop other movement patterns, which can prevent overuse injuries.
If you have other sports that you’re into, now’s the time to mix them into your weekly playing schedule.
For example, you can ride a bike every other day, or use it to go to and from the basketball court. Doing a few laps in the swimming pool every weekend is also a great way to mix things up.
5) Stay hydrated
You can lose up to 4% of your body weight through sweat during a game. This level of dehydration makes you prone to fatigue and therefore, prone to injury. (3)
To avoid this, make sure to keep rehydrating during and after the game. Consuming 200 to 300 ml of fluid every 20 minutes should put you in the right direction. (4)
6) Get a good night’s sleep consistently
Research shows that sleep-deprived young athletes are 1.7 times more likely to suffer an injury, compared to those who get 8 hours of sleep. (5)
They believe this is due to poor mental performance and fatigue. Both are common consequences of sleeplessness, which increase injury risk. (5)
Here are some tips to help you increase your sleep quality (5):
- Relax and listen to soft music a few minutes before bedtime.
- Maintain an optimal sleeping temperature of about 15 to 19C°.
- Limit your caffeine intake.
7) Do not push through the pain
Pain is the body’s warning signal to tell that something is off. Thus, you shouldn’t ignore it or push through it.
If you ever experience worsening knee pain during the game, take time out to assess the situation. Tolerating the pain and continuing to play could further cause damage and even a knee injury.
Being proactive about such discomfort can help you fix what’s going on, so you can return quickly to the game.
3 common basketball knee injuries to watch out for
The wear-and-tear nature of the game could lead to wide-ranging injuries, such as:
Also known as jumper’s knee, this injury relates to feeling pain in the strong band of tissue that connects your kneecap to your shin bone – your patellar tendon.
Repetitive movements like jumping, landing, and sprinting are often the causes of irritation and inflammation in this soft tissue. (6)
This refers to an injury of the meniscus – the rubbery shock absorbers inside your knee joint. It’s often caused by a sudden twisting movement on your lower leg.
Common symptoms include pain, swelling, and locking of the knee. These can happen either on the inner or outer side of the joint, depending on which meniscus is involved.
This is an injury of the muscles on the back of your thigh. They get overly stretched and could tear, which can cause sudden pain in the back of your knee while running at a high speed. (7)
Recovery time depends on how badly the muscle is torn. A mild overstretch injury can take a week to recover from, while a severe one could require months.
Learn more: The most common knee injuries in basketball.
What causes knee injuries in basketball?
Knee injuries in basketball are often caused by poorly coordinated sudden stops and old injuries that didn’t heal properly.
How can basketball injuries be prevented?
Basketball injuries can be prevented by doing warmups, strengthening, sleeping at least 8 hours, staying hydrated, and cross-training.
Are knee injuries common in basketball?
Yes, knee injuries are common in basketball, due to the fast pacing of the sport. But you can reduce your risk of having them with well-rounded training.
Conclusion: How to prevent a basketball knee injury
Most basketball players can reduce their risk of suffering a knee injury by taking charge of their health. This can be in the form of warming up before a game, staying hydrated, and having good sleep habits, to name a few.
Fortunately, these lifestyle changes are cheap and result in huge and positive lasting changes. But remember that you have to work on your entire body as well to prevent other common injuries, like ankle sprains or shoulder 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
- Iwata M, Yamamoto A, Matsuo S, Hatano G, Miyazaki M, Fukaya T, Fujiwara M, Asai Y, Suzuki S. Dynamic Stretching Has Sustained Effects on Range of Motion and Passive Stiffness of the Hamstring Muscles. J Sports Sci Med. 2019 Feb 11;18(1):13-20. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6370952/.
- Baker, Lindsay B et al. “Progressive dehydration causes a progressive decline in basketball skill performance.” Medicine and science in sports and exercise vol. 39,7 (2007): 1114-23. DOI: 10.1249/mss.0b013e3180574b02
- Judge LW, Bellar DM, Popp JK, Craig BW, Schoeff MA, Hoover DL, Fox B, Kistler BM, Al-Nawaiseh AM. Hydration to Maximize Performance and Recovery: Knowledge, Attitudes, and Behaviors Among Collegiate Track and Field Throwers. J Hum Kinet. 2021 Jul 28;79:111-122. doi: 10.2478/hukin-2021-0065
- Copenhaver, Elizabeth A, and Alex B Diamond. “The Value of Sleep on Athletic Performance, Injury, and Recovery in the Young Athlete.” Pediatric annals vol. 46,3 (2017): e106-e111. DOI: 10.3928/19382359-20170221-01
- Santana JA, Mabrouk A, Sherman Al. Jumpers Knee. [Updated 2022 Nov 4]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK532969/
- Erickson, Lauren et al. “Rehabilitation and return to sport after hamstring strain injury.” Journal of Sport and Health Science Volume 6, Issue 3, September 2017, Pages 262-270. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2095254617300522