Despite the recent NCAA Men's basketball tournament being memorable for little-known schools upsetting established athletic powerhouses and a championship game featuring spectacular 3-point shooting from both teams, the lasting image for millions of fans will be one of the more gruesome injuries ever seen during any athletic event.
In a nationally televised game pitting Louisville against Duke for a trip to the Final Four, Louisville's Kevin Ware made a routine defensive move, jumping up to block an opposing player's shot. But when his foot landed on the court, Ware's leg unexpectedly snapped in two -- pushing the broken bone through the skin before he collapsed on the court in front of shocked and saddened spectators in the arena and across the country.
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"To think something like that could happen to an experienced athlete who had probably made that same jump thousands of times before was just unimaginable," said Dr. Marcus Talerico, M.D., a Board certified orthopaedic surgeon with MidAmerica Orthopaedics in Libertyville and former U.S. Navy staff orthopaedic surgeon. "We don't know why it happened, but it can happen to even the best trained athletes. And although suffering a compound leg fracture while playing sports at any level is an extremely rare occurrence, it's still important for all athletes, no matter how experienced, to take the time and properly prepare themselves for physical activity."
In looking at basketball-related injuries alone, they happen more often than you might think. According to research from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) which was recently cited by the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS), nearly 1.5 million basketball injuries suffered by adults and children were reported in 2011.
To prevent injuries when playing basketball on the court or even when shooting hoops on the driveway, Dr. Talerico and the AAOS recommend the following safety tips for all players:
- Wear the right equipment -- Shoes should always have a comfortable, snug fit and provide plenty of support. While playing, don't wear any jewelry and you may want to consider using a mouth guard and protective sports glasses to avoid facial injuries, especially when putting up a shot near the rim or going for a rebound. Knee and elbow pads as well as ankle braces are also good for added protection and support.
- Warm up before beginning to play -- Simple exercises and stretches can really make a difference in preparing for play and preventing injuries. For example, 3 -- 5 minutes of doing jumping jacks or running in place should be followed by slow and gentle stretching of muscles in the legs, spine and shoulders. Hold each stretch for 20 -- 30 seconds.
- Use proper technique -- For instance, when jumping for the ball, land on a bent knee rather than a straight knee. Play only your position and know where other players are on the court to reduce the chance of collisions.
- Stay hydrated, not thirsty -- Even playing when mildly dehydrated can impact performance. It's recommended that players drink 24-ounces of non-caffeinated fluid two hours before exercise, and additional 8-ounces of fluid or sports drink immediately before play. While playing, break for at least 8-ounces of water every 20 minutes.
- Safe steps for injury recovery -- When recovering from a concussion or any condition resulting in pain or swelling, an injured player's symptoms must be completely healed before being allowed to return. No swelling, no pain, normal strength and a full range of motion are necessary to play effectively and avoid re-injury. Following serious injuries, clearance should be given by medical professionals before a player should return.
"Taking a break from consistently playing one particular game and avoiding burnout are also important factors to consider for preventing injuries in basketball or any sport," added Dr. Talerico. "Playing sports should always be fun, especially for younger participants, and those small, preventive steps can go a long way in making sure players always enjoy working hard, improving their skills and perhaps, fulfilling championship dreams."
To learn more about avoiding sports injuries, MidAmerica Orthopeadics of Libertyville or to contact Dr. Talerico, please visit www.handtoshoulderclinic.com or call 1-855-4MY-ORTHO (1-855-469-6784).