Basketball is an extremely fun, fast-paced sport to play, and it’s one of the few sports you can enjoy in your youth AND as you get older. However, the explosive movements and constant turning and cutting can make basketball a sport riddled with potential foot and ankle injuries.

The most common basketball injuries are to the foot, ankle, and knee. Ankle sprains, foot fractures, torn knee ligaments, and jammed fingers lead the way, but there are numerous other types of injuries. These injuries can range from stress fractures in the lower leg to facial lacerations.

Preventing and lessening the likelihood of injury in basketball, like all sports, comes down to maintaining a regular cardiovascular and resistance training routine, so you can increase and/or maintain your strength, flexibility, and endurance.

In addition, support braces (especially ankle and knee braces) may help safeguard you against unforeseen injuries. This is especially true if you’ve previously injured or weakened an area.

With that said, if you do get hurt while playing basketball, it's important that you respond quickly and appropriately. Here are three steps to follow if you find yourself injured on the court:

Step #1: Listen to your body and stop playing.

Pushing through the pain may sound like a good idea (especially if you’re young and seemingly “invincible”), but it's one of the worst mistakes you can make. If you're truly injured and in pain, stop what you're doing and move on to Step #2!

Step #2: Assess the injury and either care for the injury yourself or seek professional help.

If you're in severe pain, your body is disabled in any way, or if you experience numbness – seek medical attention immediately.

If you've injured an eye, you experience bleeding, immediate swelling, immediate bruising, have an extremity that appears to be shorter than usual or in an “unnatural position,” or if you have a bone that is now exposed – immobilize the injured area and seek professional help immediately.

If you seek medical help, then please follow the advice you are given.

If you are not experiencing any of the above and you believe your injury is mild enough not to seek medical attention, then we recommend you:

  1. Immediately apply an ice pack or a bag of frozen vegetables to the injured area. Doing so helps reduce pain and decrease blood flow and swelling. Ice should not be left on for extended periods of time. Instead, keep the ice on your injury for 10-20 minutes and then remove it. For better results, ice your injury this way several times a day for two to three days.

You'll also want to elevate the injured area above the level of your heart to help reduce blood flow and swelling.

Whatever you do, DO NOT APPLY HEAT during the first 72 hours following an injury! This includes hot pads, hot baths and warming liniments. Heat increases pain, blood flow, and swelling – and can actually delay your recovery and make things worse.

NOTE: Nonsteroidal, anti-inflammatory pain medications, such as ibuprofen, can be useful in treating a sports injury. Like icing and elevating the area, these medications decrease inflammation and reduce pain. Please use as directed and seek medical attention if pain persists for more than a few days.

  1. Rest and let yourself heal. When you're hurt, resting the injured area is extremely important. Do not continue to play or practice. This will place undue stress and strain on your muscles, tendons, and ligaments. Believe it or not, resting your body allows it to heal faster than the “no pain, no gain” mentality.

This rest period could take as little as a couple of days, or it could require weeks or months to recover. If your injury doesn't heal within three weeks, you may consider scheduling an appointment with an orthopedic doctor.

Step #3: Start the rehabilitation process and slowly get back into action.

If you follow the previously outlined protocol and your pain level and swelling have diminished, then you can slowly return to your previous level of activity.

We encourage you to slowly return with some gentle stretching and careful movements to help you prevent scar tissue from forming.

In addition, since scar tissue can interfere with movement and cause pain down the road, you may consider seeking a physical therapist or massage therapist to assist you in this recovery process.

To maintain your overall fitness level during your rehabilitation period, you may consider choosing a training routine that compliments basketball movements, but doesn't use the same muscles in the same way.

For example, instead of hard running (suicides) on the court after a knee injury, you can start walking, jogging, and performing gentle, dynamic stretching. Adding these activities to your rehab routine can help ease your knee back into shape and get your cardio-conditioning back on track.

Use common sense and play smart to avoid any further injury.

We hope you stay healthy and safe. However, if you do find yourself injured on the court, we hope these steps get you back on your feet as soon as possible.

Lastly, if you do get injured and need to seek immediate medical help, we’re here for you!