Injuries are a major setback for any competitive athlete. It can be physically taxing to recover and mentally stressful and draining to be sitting on the bench and going through rehabilitation. Injuries can even affect major decisions such as college or scholarship offers. While it is impossible to prevent all injuries, there are many strategies that female basketball players can incorporate into their strength and conditioning and lifestyle programs that will help reduce the risk of many common athletic injuries.

Female athletes have long been the demographic with large instances of ACL and other knee injuries. Along with these issues, female athletes can also face risk of injuries such as hamstring strains and pulls, hip problems, ankle sprains and breaks, and shoulder and upper back injuries. Many of these come from simply having a lower amount of lean muscle mass than their male counterparts, making them more susceptible overall.

Many other injuries come from overuse training (too much playing of the sport and not enough strength and conditioning), and many studies have been done to show other factors such as hormonal fluxes, hip joint angles, and improper landing and cutting technique due to lack of strength that also contribute to lower body injuries.

While this article is not a scientific piece on why females might have a higher instance of injury than males, it is important to realize that without proper training and lifestyle design, female athletes do have some risks. However, these risks can certainly be reduced by employing the correct strategies.

Here are some simple prevention strategies that female basketball players at the middle school, high school, and college level can incorporate (at varying degrees) into their lifestyles and training programs:

  1. Proper warm up and mobility
    Prior to training, practice, or games, players should participate in a dynamic warm-up session. This is meant to prepare the body for movement and help move blood through the muscles to get them warm and mobile. Movements such as skips, squats, lateral lunges, change of direction work, and hip mobility circuits are major staples of a warm up, but there are hundreds of combinations that can be developed.Mobility refers to the ability to move effectively. This is different than flexibility. Think of mobility as what you would need on the court, moving in certain situations without pain or imbalances. Be sure to spend 10–15 minutes properly warming up your body prior to any events, and you will see great changes in your overall mobility, quickness, balance, and performance.
  1. Strength training
    Strength training has many benefits for female players. Overall strength can help reduce injury risk. The stronger a player is, the faster and more powerful she is as well. Female players often lack sufficient upper body strength so movements such as push-ups, pull-ups, bench pressing, and overhead pressing will help to increase overall strength and reduce shoulder and back injuries. Lower body movements such as squats, lunges, step-ups, and specific hamstring development will help to increase the vertical jump, overall quickness, and reduce the risk for knee injuries if the athlete has balanced strength between their hamstring and quadriceps muscles.
  1. Jump and landing technique training
    Many basketball related injuries, particularly knees and ankles, are a result of poor landing. Training an athlete to land properly includes dropping the hips, absorbing their weight into the floor, and keeping their legs about shoulder width apart (athletic position). This will help to decrease off balance landings and increase overall body awareness that will translate into game speed situations. When teaching jump technique, it is important to emphasize control of your own body before implementing external weight or other elements. Movements that stress exploding through the hips and hamstrings will teach athletes to extend and use full body force to achieve a more powerful and successful jump.
  1. Nutrition
    The topic of nutrition should be kept fairly simple when dealing with athletes. Most do not have the time or the need to count calories, protein intake, and things of that nature. There should be a focus on eating 5–6 times per day (every 3–4 hours), drinking up to a gallon of water per day, and including as many natural foods as possible. Satisfactory food choices should include lean protein sources, healthy fats, fruits and veggies, low fat dairy, unsalted nuts, and complex carbohydrates such as whole grains. These options help keep the athletes full; fuel their bodies for practices, workouts, and games; and provide valuable nutrients for recovery and muscular and skeletal growth.
  1. Avoid overtraining
    Many athletes and coaches have the “more is better” mindset when it comes to training and skill development. With young athletes, recovery is necessary to improve overall skills and strength and to keep them mentally fresh and interested in the sport and competition. Athletes should have one day of recovery each week that is dedicated to relaxation, stretching, and having fun. This will help to keep them both physically and mentally fresh. Athletes who are burned out and unmotivated are much more likely to risk an injury due to overall fatigue and lack of focus.
  1. Corrective stretching
    Many athletes develop tight muscular and joint areas due to incorrect posture, muscular imbalances, and years of playing and training a certain way. The hips, thoracic spine (mid-back), ankles, and shoulders are often tight areas for young basketball players. In order to decrease the tight areas and reduce injury risk, some corrective stretching should be done. Implements such as foam rollers, stretching straps, lacrosse balls for pressure release, and assisted and passive stretching for the problem areas are all important and useful. Stretching should be done following a dynamic warm up or after a training session when the muscles and joints are pliable. Stretching should be done every day and maintained for several months to see an increased effect.

When all of these strategies are combined and used on a regular basis, athletes will have a much lower chance of injury. Some positive effects of the aforementioned strategies include:

·          Increased strength

·          Increased energy levels

·          Increased bone and muscular health from improved nutrition

·          Improved mental focus and less burnout

·          Enjoyment of the game

·          Increased posture and overall joint mobility

These factors along with many others contribute to the overall health and injury prevention of young female basketball players. The major goal is to keep an athlete healthy and increase her overall performance on the court and in life. With proper maintenance and coaching, female athletes will see dramatic gains in these aspects of their athletic lifestyles.