Basketball: Know What to Do When Your Athlete Has an Ankle or Knee Injury

basketball knee and ankle injuries

According to the National Athletic Trainers Association, ankle/foot injuries are received by approximately 35% of high school basketball players and knee injuries by approximately 11%.

Following are some tips on what to know if your child has an ankle or knee injury.

Ankle Injuries

Ankle sprains are the most common basketball injury and often occur as the result of an awkward landing from a rebound or jump that stretches ligaments beyond their limits.

Treatment recommendations vary with the severity of the injury:

  • Mild sprains require rest but not necessarily medical treatment (follow the PRICE treatment plan listed below).
  • Injuries with persistent swelling, pain, or any deformity should be seen by a physician.

After treatment and rehabilitation, a full return to activity is expected. It is common for an athlete to sprain their ankle again after the initial injury, which is why it is important to continue to work on range of motion and to strengthen the ankle once the athlete returns to sports in order to reduce that chance.

Knee Injuries

Another common injury in basketball is an Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) sprain or tear. An ACL injury happens when the knee is twisted forcefully or hyper extended and can occur when landing from a jump, changing direction on the court or when colliding with another player. Athletes often describe a pop at the time of injury, followed by a lot of swelling within a few hours after the injury.

When to see a medical specialist

Athletes should see their pediatrician or pediatric sports medicine physician if pain and or swelling persist after PRICE treatment. In addition:

  • In younger athletes, bone maturity helps to determine the treatment plan. Injury to an open growth plate requires special consideration by a pediatric orthopedic specialist.
  • Training in proper jumping and landing technique may help to prevent this injury.

Knee pain that comes on slowly over time can indicate other problems, such as:

  • Patello-femoral Pain Syndrome (Runner’s Knee) – pain in the front of the knee related to muscle and tissue stress around the knee cap; can be addressed with proper training in physical therapy.
  • Osteochondritis Dissecans – a defect in the knee’s cartilage that can become evident over time during repetitive activity such as jumping.
  • Osgood-Schlatter Disease – stress-related inflammation in a growth center at the front of the knee.

PRICE formula:

  • P rotect the area with a sling or crutches, if necessary.
  • Rest the injured area.
  • Ice the injury for 20 minutes at a time. Do not apply the ice directly to the skin.
  • Compress the injured area with a wrap. Do not pull tightly, as this can cut off circulation.
  • Elevate the injured area above the heart, if possible.

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