What started as a peach basket nailed to the wall of a gymnasium in 1891 has turned into one of the most popular sports in America. Basketball is played on all skill levels, at all ages, by all kinds of people. But no matter who you are or where you play, when you hit the court and put your body’s performance to the test, you’re at risk of injury. Sometimes injury develops over time, and sometimes it’s immediate. An ankle sprain from basketball is the the most common on-the-spot injury to occur in players of all levels.
To get an ankle sprain from basketball, you usually have to land funny, which is easy to do in this sport. Jumping to make a shot, running or pivoting with the ball could all lead to putting pressure on the ankle at an unexpected angle. When the ankle rolls outward from this, the ligaments that connect the bones can stretch and tear. They may tear only partially, but sometimes tear completely. This torn ligament is the definition of an ankle sprain.
While ankle sprains are sudden and seemingly unavoidable, there are things you can do to make them less likely in your own game. For one, be honest with yourself, and don’t play beyond your limit. It’s great to challenge and push yourself, but it’s important to be smart about it, too. You are more likely to get hurt if you are playing too far beyond your level. Learn technique first so that you can land and pivot properly, and then go from there.
Part of learning that technique is training your body to move properly. Working on flexibility makes you less likely to pull something. Rotate the ankle clockwise and counterclockwise before playing, but also stretch the calf muscles and the hamstrings. Warm up the muscles and joints by jogging around the court or doing some jumping jacks. Never, ever begin a game of basketball (or any other sport, for that matter!) without first warming up.
You can also help yourself land jumps better by working on your balance. Practice standing on one foot at a time as part of your conditioning routine. If you’re super committed to avoiding injury, practicing yoga a few times a week is a great way to gain both balance and flexibility. The right kind of yoga also builds strength, so in the long run, yoga can improve your game altogether.
If you do end up suffering from an ankle sprain from basketball, make sure you take it easy for a while. The quickest way to get hurt again is to keep playing without enough rest and recovery time. Give your ankle a break and treat it with alternating ice and heat. Allow the joint to rest and avoid any excessive movement or pressure. Once you’re ready, ease into movement with gentle stretches and strengthening exercises. A physical therapist can guide you through these if need be. Even after recovery seems to be over, take it easy! If you sprain your ankle a second time, it could be even worse than before. Patience is key to healing and to ultimately improving your game.