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Common Basketball Injuries

Basketball is taking the country by storm. It's becoming the number one game in America according to experts (those who love basketball!) In fact, tickets are so hot for professional and collegiate basketball games, that fans will pay more than $1,000 for one ticket!

The 10 Top Basketball Injuries

Basketball can also be fraught with injury if the game isn't closely supervised by a referee who is vigilant in calling fouls. Most team players have to watch out for getting kicked and shoved by players on the other team. You can have a bad fall, pulling muscles and breaking bones, if you are pushed to the floor.

The basketball team's first aid kit should include adhesive bandages, ice packs, pain relievers, instant ice bags, adhesive tape, scissors, sterile gauze pads, first aid cream, Ace bandages, and swatches of cloth for making slings. For step-by-step first aid treatment for specific injuries, see How to Make a Sling or Splint.

  • Shoulder injury. Hurtling basketballs into the basket over and over again can cause an arm or shoulder to get out of joint.
  • Tendonitis. All that jumping, scooping, and bending can be hard on muscles, especially those in the lower calf. The painful condition known as tendonitis can result; it is an inflammation of the tendons that connect the leg muscle to the bone.
  • Bursitis. Guard duty can be fun, but it puts a lot of stress on the ankles—leading to bursitis. This is a painful swelling of the bursa, the sac-filled cushion at the heel. This same condition can affect the bursa in the shoulder and elbows, which is often felt by centers, for example, who keep their arms up in the air for long periods of time.
  • Impingement Syndrome. When shoulders are overused, calcium deposits will sometimes settle in the ligaments that connect the collarbone with the shoulder blade. Deposits can also accumulate in the hips, knees, ankles, wrists, and even the fingers. The result? Every time a player reaches for the basket, it hurts!
  • Lower back pain. Repetitive bending, as in guarding the other team's best player, can hurt even the youngest backs.
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome. Dribbling heavy, bouncing balls might earn you a basket, but it can also cause carpal tunnel syndrome, a condition in which the ligament band that goes around nerves and muscles that runs from the fingers through the arm, is constricted. Nerves literally “hit” muscle and bone, causing excruciating pain.
  • Jumper's knee. Even if you are light on your feet, all that jumping can eventually take its toll—causing swelling and inflammation. That's why so many professional basketball players wear Ace bandages, more constrictive wraps, or even braces on their knees when they're on the court.
  • Foot injury. Think of it. All that movement, feet jumping, balls bouncing, arms waving, your eye's on the ball and ouch! It's not uncommon for one player to fall and turn an ankle or for someone to unintentionally step on the toe of another player.
  • Neck pain. Shoulders and arms do a lot of the work, but the neck also gets into the act. Throwing that ball up, pushing it through a basket, looking up, these actions curl the neck into uncomfortable, strenuous positions.
  • Eye injuries. According the National Basketball Association, black eyes, cuts and scrapes around the eye, and bruises in the area of the eye are among the most common injuries in the sport. Many players are sidelined by eye injuries, unable to play because their eyes are swollen shut and bandaged, or because their sight is impaired.

Treatment and Cures

As in any team sports, flexibility is key. Keeping muscles supple and loose is vital for keeping strains and sprains to a minimum. Basketball players should concentrate on the upper body, especially the arms, neck, and shoulders, performing at-home stretches and strengthening these muscles on gym machines in-between games.

Knees, too, are problem areas in basketball. The best treatment here is exercise, specifically leg lifts and machines that strengthen the knee's supporting muscles. Wearing an Ace bandage on an already sore knee can help prevent it from getting worse, but unless you're a pro, you're best off staying off the court until it heals.

More on: First Aid

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Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to First Aid Basics © 1996 by Stephen J. Rosenberg, M.D. and Karla Dougherty. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

To order this book visit Amazon's web site or call 1-800-253-6476.


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