Young girls are playing a basketball game.
The body mechanics involved in basketball may lead to ankle and knee injuries. Certain exercises, stretches and training may help prevent them. (For Spectrum Health Beat)

It’s just an ankle sprain right? Wrong.

We quite frequently see someone “tweak” an ankle and then limp around, only to continue to play. While in some cases this may be fine, some degree of injury has still occurred and it should be managed.

Proper injury management to initial rehabilitation to return to play is essential for long-term health.

Prevention starts with ankle strength. Using your toe as a pencil and writing the alphabet in the air is a good start. Additional tools such as resistance bands, towels and partner strengthening can also be performed.

Simply standing on one leg while doing normal activities like washing dishes or brushing your teeth is helpful in building the balance and kinesthetic awareness needed for the body to respond to forces that can cause an injury.

Once a ligament is stretched beyond the body’s ability to heal itself, the stability in the ankle will come from the muscles and tendons of the foot and lower leg. Bracing and taping can done as well to provide an extra level of support.

There is no evidence to support the claim that these tools make an ankle weaker, but they do not allow the individual to develop strength and balance during the training process. My recommendation is to train and condition without the braces and tape and only use them for games or competitive practices.

In addition to ankle injuries, we see a high number of knee injuries. Common among these is the anterior cruciate ligament, commonly referred to as the ACL. Similar to football and soccer, the ACL can be injured in a non-contact manner.

The mechanism in basketball can still be the common “plant and twist,” but additional forces related to lower leg position come into play as a result of jumping mechanics.

One program that several athletic training staff in the Spectrum Health Sports Medicine Program are certified to teach is SportsMetrics. The evidence behind a program like this is clear:

  • There are more than 100,000 ACL reconstructions performed in the United States every year.
  • 70 percent of serious knee injuries occur during non-contact sports activity.
  • Early identification and correction of biomechanical risk factors play key roles in injury prevention.

What is Sportsmetrics? An evidence-based and nationally recognized injury prevention program specifically targeted at ACL injuries. It involves:

  • Sports injury testing and video analysis of outcomes
  • Individualized athletic profiles of strength, function, speed, agility and lower limb alignment
  • Jump training
  • Speed and agility training
  • Vertical jump training
  • Weekly educational pieces on various athletic injury- and performance-related topics

Don’t let knee or ankle issues keep you benched. If you have an injury that may be more than a “tweak” and would like to have it evaluated, visit our Orthopedic Urgent Care Clinic. Our providers can offer expert guidance on next steps to get you #backinthegame safely.