The most costly injury in the game

With its constant action and excitement, basketball is one of the most popular sports in the country and, other than football, the only one where college play is as popular as professional play. Long a fixture of American life, it’s still growing in popularity even in recent years. But the special nature of the game, with its agility and rapid stops and turns, presents specific injury risks. Today we’re going to talk about how physical therapy can help with those risks.

A 17-year review by New York’s Hospital for Special Surgery and others found that the two most common kinds of basketball injuries in the NBA were sprained ankles (13.2% of all injuries) and patellofemoral inflammation (11.9%). But although ankle injuries were more common. it was the latter, also called chondromalacia, that accounted for more missed games (10,370 versus 5223 for ankle sprains.)

We talked a little while ago about physical therapy to recover from ankle sprains, consisting of a gently increasing series of flexes and weighted lifts. A slightly different regimen of regular exercises can help to improve your strength and coordination to avoid ankle injury in the first place. But what about the other one?

Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome (PFPS)

Patellofemoral inflammation is an overuse injury, meaning it’s caused by repeated stress on one area of the body without enough recovery time. In this case, the articular cartilage underneath the kneecap is worn down such that continued movement there causes pain in the bone or synovium (the lubricating lining that encases a joint).

If you suffer symptoms of patellofemoral inflammation – like a dull pain in the kneecap during physical activity or after sitting a long time – your first step should be the RICE method: Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation. If a doctor’s examination finds that you have patellofemoral pain syndrome, a physical therapist can prescribe a regimen to mitigate the effects of cartilage damage. Bear in mind that articular cartilage does not regrow, so early detection and mitigation are essential to protecting your knees for the long term.


Strengthening the right muscles is key since that will take some of the strain off the cartilage under the kneecap. The quadriceps are the primary muscle group that stabilizes the knee, so a series of leg lifts with gradually increasing weight/resistance may be part of your regimen. After that, the hamstrings are also important, and the exercises for that begin with backward leg raises and move up to resistance with weights or exercise bands. Your therapist may also give you some core exercises to strengthen your abs and lumbar, as those can also affect your balance and thus how you use your knees.

Beyond exercises, and since stability is the name of the game, a physical therapist may recommend using a knee brace or tape, showing you how to tape for maximum protection or which type of brace will work best.

You probably won’t know what will be in your knee pain therapy regimen until you talk directly to a therapist, so your first step would be arranging a consultation. If you’re in the Prince William or Fauquier County area, talk to Haymarket Physical Therapy to get the help you need to get back in the game.

Haymarket, Va.: 703-753-0261

Bealeton, Va.: 540-905-7111

Bristow, Va.: 571-719-3563

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