March Madness and Healthy Hoops

by Dr. Joseph Guettler

Basketball season is definitely here, and March Madness is soon to be upon us! Many of us are thankful for the collegiate basketball we watch. Others are most appreciative of our own kids’ efforts on the court. And some of us even get inspired to lace up our old basketball shoes and head to the local gym or court to relive the glory.

The excitement of basketball season gives me a chance to educate the public on how to stay healthy and safe on the basketball court – let’s call it “healthy hoops.” There is no denying it’s great exercise, as long as you play it safe. But, if you or your child gets hurt, the “fun is done,” and the basketball hype of the season gets sidelined.   

Each year, more than 1.6 million basketball-related injuries are treated by doctors. The most common basketball injuries I see in my practice are ankle sprains, knee sprains and jammed fingers. To try not to be one of the statistics, the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons offers the following tips to prevent basketball injuries:

  • Always take time to warm up and stretch. Research studies have shown cold muscles are more prone to injury. Warm up with jumping jacks, stationary cycling, or running or walking in place for three to five minutes. Then slowly and gently stretch, holding each stretch for 30 seconds.
  • Play only your position and know where other players are on the court to reduce the chance of collisions. Don’t hold, block, push, charge or trip opponents. Use proper techniques for passing and scoring.
  • Select basketball shoes that fit snugly, offer support and are non-skid. Cotton socks can absorb perspiration and also give added support to the foot. Ankle supports can reduce the incidence of ankle sprains.
  • Protective knee and elbow pads will protect you from bruises and abrasions.
  • Use a mouth guard to protect your teeth and mouth.
  • If you wear glasses, use safety glasses or glass guards to protect your eyes.
  • Do not wear jewelry or chew gum during practice or games.
  • Baskets and boundary lines should not be too close to walls, bleachers, water fountains or other structures. Goals, as well as the walls behind them, should be padded.
  • Be knowledgeable about first aid and be able to administer it for minor injuries, such as facial cuts, bruises, minor tendonitis, strains or sprains.
  • Be prepared for emergency situations and have a plan to reach medical personnel to treat injuries such as concussions, dislocations, elbow contusions, wrist or finger sprains and fractures.
  • Finally, an off-season program that includes strengthening and agility can decrease the chance of knee and ankle injuries once you or your child hits the court.

There you have it – some “healthy hoops” tips so you and your kids can get the most out of basketball season. Whether you’re watching the Pistons, Golden Grizzlies or your own jump shot go in, have a fun – and safe – basketball season.

Dr. Joseph Guettler is an orthopedic surgeon who specializes in sports medicine, as well as surgery of the knee, shoulder and elbow. He is a proud member of the MOS team.