Like many sports, basketball has a number of health benefits. NBA players have been estimated to run upward of 2 miles during a game, and this varies from slow-paced cardio movement to all-out sprinting and explosive jumping. Playing basketball helps build cardiovascular endurance and develop anaerobic muscle fibers responsible for jumping, sprinting and quickly changing direction.
“Like most sports, basketball carries a risk of injury,” says Dr. David Burnikel, a board-certified orthopedic surgeon affiliated with Sharp Grossmont Hospital. “The most common tend to be ‘overuse injuries’ that occur gradually over time, when an athletic or other activity is repeated so often that areas of the body do not have enough time to heal in between occurrences. Examples include tendinitis, ankle sprains, muscle contusions and stress fractures.”
If you like to play basketball as much as you like watching it, there are some things you can do to give yourself the best shot at avoiding injury. Dr. Burnikel offers the following five tips to keep players safe on the court:
- Stay safe. While basketball can be played alone, it does tend to be a group sport. If playing with people who live outside your home, wear a face mask, keep physical distance where possible and practice good hand-hygiene.
- Balance your fitness. Develop a balanced fitness program that incorporates cardiovascular exercise, strength training and flexibility. Plyometrics (jump training) and cross training (training with multiple types of exercise, movement or modalities) can condition your body to handle the movements and pressures associated with basketball.
- Warm up and stretch. Research has shown that cold muscles are more prone to injury. Warm up with jumping jacks, stationary cycling, or running or walking in place for 3 to 5 minutes. Then slowly and gently stretch, holding each stretch for 30 seconds.
- Listen to your body. If you are injured or something doesn’t feel right, take a break. Play at a level consistent with your ability and pay attention to how your body feels. An injured player’s symptoms should be completely gone before returning to play to avoid more serious injury.
- Hydrate … then hydrate some more. If you have not had enough fluids, your body will not be able to effectively cool itself through sweat and evaporation. A general recommendation is to drink 24 ounces of non-caffeinated fluid two hours before exercise. Drinking an additional 8 ounces of water or sports drink right before exercise is also helpful. Continue to drink every 20 minutes or so while you are exercising.