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Hip and Leg Injuries in Basketball

The knees, feet, and ankles are commonly injured in basketball players, but there are several other injuries that basketball players sustain in the lower body.

Shin Splints

Shin splints refers to an inflammation of the muscles, tendons, and bone tissue around the inner portion of the shinbone. Shin splints occur as the result of overuse, such as with running. The most common symptom is pain along the inner edge of the shinbone. Pain may be sharp or dull and throbbing. Sometimes swelling is present.

Treatment: Surgery for shin splints is reserved for only the most severe cases. Standard treatment for shin splints includes rest, anti-inflammatory medications, ice, compression, and exercises that stretch the lower leg muscles. Sometimes, special shoes or shoe inserts may be recommended to take stress off the lower leg.

Hamstring Injury

The hamstring can be strained or torn if the muscle is stretched beyond its means. This often happens if the hamstring is too tight or is fatigued. A hamstring injury can cause a sharp pain in the back of the thigh. The area can swell and may bruise. There is often weakness in the hamstring which may persist for weeks. Both Michael Kidd-Gilchrist of the Charlotte Hornets and Dwyane Wade of the Miami Heat have been diagnosed with hamstring strains. Wade, who was selected for the NBA All-Star game, decided sit out of the game.

Treatment: The RICE method (Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation) is often effective for a hamstring strain. Physical therapy may also be recommended to help with flexibility, range of motion, and strength in the hamstring. A tear may require surgery to reattach the hamstring.

Calf Strains

The calf muscles are also susceptible to strains during a basketball game. When a basketball player pushes off the floor with sudden force, either while jumping, running, or changing direction, the calf muscle can be stretched past its means, damaging the muscle fibers. This can sometimes lead to a large tear in the muscle. Two Atlanta Hawks players, Shelvin Mack and Thabo Sefolosha, have recently been on the injury list with calf strains. Mack has since returned, but Sefolosha is expected to be out until at least mid-March.

Treatment: As with most muscle strains, the RICE method is very effective. Heel pads can also help to take some of the strain off the calf by raising the heel. Anti-inflammatory medications can help with pain and swelling, and physical therapy can help to build flexibility and strength in the calf muscle. Surgery is generally only necessary if the muscle is severely torn.

Hip Strains

There are several muscles that support the hip, allowing it to function properly. A hip strain occurs when one of these muscles is stretched or torn, limiting the hip’s range of motion. A hip strain can occur from a fall onto the court, collision with another player, or overuse. The injury can result in pain, swelling, and muscle weakness. Several NBA players have been diagnosed with hip strain recently, including Monta Ellis of the Dallas Mavericks, Jordan Hill of the Los Angeles Lakers, and Darren Collison of the Sacramento Kings.

Treatment: Hip strains rarely require surgery unless the muscle fibers are completely torn. In most cases, the RICE method is helpful, as are anti-inflammatory medications and physical therapy. After the first 72 hours, alternating ice with heat therapy can help improve the muscle’s range of motion.

Hip Pointer

Bruising can occur along the brim of the pelvic bone after a direct blow to the hip, either from falling onto the court or colliding with another player. This injury is called a hip pointer. Hip pointers can result in severe pain, tenderness, soreness, decreased range of motion, and muscle spasms. Erick Green of the Denver Nuggets was recently diagnosed with a hip pointer.

Treatment: Hip pointers are treated with nonsurgical methods, including rest, ice, anti-inflammatory medications, and physical therapy. If there is severe pain, a steroid or numbing injection may be recommended.

Follow me on Twitter @GleiberMD for more information about sports injuries and treatment.