March Madness: 5 Tips for Basketball Safety

It’s March Madness and the basketball court is calling you. However, be warned — a pickup game can cost you more than your pride. Before going to the hoop this month, read the five important safety tips below.

1.) Strength Training & Flexibility

Stretching has always been considered an important start to your game. It improves flexibility which many people think can diminish the risk of injury. Surprisingly, however, studies have shown stretching alone is not as effective as a well-rounded warm-up program. Strength training, aerobic conditioning, and cross training exercises play an important role in injury prevention as well. For organized teams, this should always be a requirement before getting on the court. Proper warm-up exercises can alleviate strain on joints and ligaments while building strength in the supporting muscles around the knees. Additionally, focusing on your core and upper body makes you a more well rounded athlete and less prone to injury. Finally, the benefits of a well rounded routine can speed up recovery time if injuries do occur. Cool-down stretching is a good idea after the game because may help reduce lactic acid build-up in muscles and result in faster recovery times.

2.) Hydration

Proper hydration begins well before the jump ball. If you wait until you’re thirsty, it’s already too late and your athletic performance will suffer. When you play hard on the court, your body loses essential electrolytes and fluids from sweating. You need to replenish those fluids with water and sometimes a sports drink, or you risk dehydration. It’s important to recognize the signs of dehydration such as dry mouth, headache or confusion because it can hurt your performance and your body.

3.) Wear the Right Gear

A basketball player is nothing without the right gear. Basketball shoes should fit snugly and provide support, while still allowing enough flexibility to move freely. Ankle injuries are very common in basketball. Basketball players benefit from well fitting and supportive shoes. There does not seem to be a benefit to wearing high top sneakers when compared to low tops, so wear what you like.  Players who are prone to ankle sprains can consider using an ankle brace inside the shoe to help prevent repeat injury.

4.) Where to Play

Since basketball can involve anywhere from two to 10 players, it can be played in a variety of spaces. Driveways, playgrounds and gyms are all potential courts and present basketball players with an ever-changing array of surfaces.

Regardless of where you choose to play, you should always inspect the court before you start and make sure it is free of debris and loose gravel. The court surface should also be free of any cracks, holes or irregularities that could lead to sprained or twisted ankles.

If you’re going to play outside at night, be sure the court is well lit and in a safe area. Indoor courts should give you plenty of distance between the edges of the court and any walls, bleachers, or other obstacles. Basket stands and any walls near them should be well padded and properly secured.

5.) Don’t ignore an injury; Listen to your body

Being safe on the court means having the awareness to stop playing if you’re in pain or feeling too tired. Many basketball injuries can heal reliably if they’re treated properly from the start. However, ignored injuries can linger throughout a season and cause long stretches of missed playing time if they’re not addressed as soon as possible. Overuse injuries can compromise your body’s ability to recover and rebuild muscle tissue worn down from practice and games. Therefore, the most important safety rule in basketball is to listen to your body. You should stop playing if you are hurt and seek medical attention if your pain is not relieved with “RICE” rest, ice, elevation and compression.

Dr. Lauren Crocco - Lab coat500
Lauren Crocco, M.D., is an
orthopedic trauma surgeon with
Miami Orthopedics & Sports Medicine Institute








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