Pro tips to keep away basketball niggles


Summertime is basketball time. So if you’re heading to your local basketball court for some hoops or grinding your way through a comp, we’re here to help.

Peoplecare caught up with NBL basketball team Illawarra Hawks’ Head of Medical and BaiMed owner Scott Muttdon for tips on how to avoid common basketball injuries.

Biggest takeaway

“The top two basketball injuries in Australia are preventable,” Muttdon says. 

So if you’re not doing strength and conditioning work, you’re looking down the barrel of one of the following injuries.

The painful problem with basketball

Half the trouble comes from basketball being a minority sport in Australia, Muttdon comments.

“There’s less intervention, there’s less exposure to physios, less exposure to diet, strength and conditioning coaching.”

It’s the nature of the game that many basketball players are tall, some with relatively low natural muscle mass to support their knees. 

Add to that, the best way to be fast and springy is to use your ankles and knees, but this comes at a bit of a cost to your body, says Muttdon.

In basketball, there’s a lot of change of direction, a lot of jumping and landing – these are high tendon load activities (more on that later).

Your physio, your personal trainer and your body would prefer most of your movement to come from your hips. 

“It’s the best designed joint to generate torque [power] and maintain stability,” says Muttdon.

Hips are also surrounded by some pretty strong muscles in the glute, hamstring and quad. 

The top two basketball injuries

1. Anterior knee pain: these types of problems are related to how you move.

- Patella tendinopathy (often called tendonitis) is an irritation of the patella tendon within the knee. The injury occurs through repetitive use or overstretching. 

It’s a niggly injury to heal and takes dedicated physio work to get it sorted.

- Patellofemoral pain is an irritation of the joint where the knee cap sits in the femur.

The solution is to work on the strength capacity of the muscles surrounding the knee and improve the load (stress through movement and weight) that the tendons and joint can take. 

- Osgood-Schlatter disease is common in young basketballers. Often called ‘growing pains’, it can cause knee pain that requires close physio management.

The solution to this is often a combination of strength training, icing of pain areas, physio attention and time off the court.

2. Ankle pains/strains: these often come from poorly managed injuries when basketballers were younger.

This is the biggest difference between pro basketballers and your amateur players. Professional basketballers tend to have their ankle injuries managed well and can nip the problem in the bud.

Many amateur players have stiff ankles that lead to knee soreness (that is, anterior knee pain as we’ve just discussed). 

The advice is, the first time you get an ankle injury, get to a physio straight away and they can give you a recovery program that includes exercises and stretches that can get you back to the fullest possible ankle mobility as fast as possible.

Want the training secrets of the Illawarra Hawks?

In physio-speak, the Hawks use ‘load management’.

In short, you can’t go nuts every day without causing yourself harm. Playing basketball and training for basketball involves a high tendon and joint load, meaning that your body gets stressed and needs a bit of a rest in order to avoid repetitive stress injuries.

Therefore, after a day of high-load work, the following day needs to be low load.

What that means in practice is that you can do heavy strength work on your off days, as long as it’s at a low tempo. That includes your core weightlifting exercises like squats, lunges and deadlifts. 

However the full intensity of CrossFit is something to be avoided. 

How does heavy strength training help?

“It builds a strength and capacity base, basketballers can better handle the stresses of a high tendon load of changing direction, jumping and landing,” says Muttdon.

Extras cover for physio*

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*2-month waiting period may apply for physio treatment


Disclaimer: To treat a specific injury, please see a physio.



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