Basketball and other sports have a variety of great benefits. However, with these benefits comes the risk of injury. In basketball, back injury is quite common. Disc herniation and lumbar strains are two frequent causes of back injury in basketball players, with lumbar strains being the third most frequent orthopedic injury type in the NBA.
Frequency of Injury
Lumbar strains affect basketball players more than disc herniation. It is estimated between 7% and 8% of total injury in the NBA is caused by lumbar strains. Lumbar strains are actually the cause of between 6% and 7% of missed games. Disc herniation can also affect basketball players. In early April 2014, Dwight Howard was pulled out of a basketball game because of a herniated disc.
The pain from lumbar strains can be alleviated with a variety of treatments. This includes rest, chiropractic care, massage, pain medication, and anti-inflammatory medication. Chiropractic care and massage work, which increase blood flow to the pained area, can sometimes help to alleviate pain. Pain medication and anti-inflammatory medication are often prescribed to help with discomfort. A lumbar strain will often go away once the body heals, so managing the symptoms will be helpful.
Herniated discs are also treated using a few different methods, including physical therapy, medication, epidural injections, and surgery. Epidural injections and other pain-managing techniques are often prescribed to treat the symptoms of the herniated disc, rather than the actual cause. Physical therapy will help the patient learn how to work the muscles around the herniated disc, while simultaneously strengthening the back.
When non-surgical methods do not work, surgery may become an option. There are two common minimally invasive surgical options for treating a herniated disc, microendoscopic surgery and microdiscectomy. Speaking to a spine specialist such as Dr. Solomon Kamson of the Spine Institute Northwest can help a patient decide if surgical or non-surgical treatment is the best option for their specific case.
The best treatment is prevention. There are several steps basketball players can take before a lumbar strain or herniated disc makes them sit out on practice or games.
Basketball players spend a lot of time on gym floors, whether they are in the game or practicing. This time spent on hard gymnasium floors can be hard on the back. This is especially true when a player is jumping repeatedly. To protect the back, it is important to wear high-quality, supportive shoes. Wearing proper footwear will decrease the likelihood of injury from strain.
Warming up with stretches before practice and doing strength-training exercises to maintain conditioning can make a major difference for back health. Stretching will increase the flexibility of the muscles, and prepare them for use. Completing regular strength-training exercises can strengthen the muscles of the back, to allow them to better protect the spine.
Last, basketball is a sport where players may fall. In some instances, this falling can cause trauma to the back, which may result in injury. Players can reduce injury by avoiding falling on areas that can easily receive trauma, such as the tailbone. While falling always comes with some risk of injury, injury to areas such as the tailbone can be very damaging. Learning to fall the “right” way can be the difference between staying in the game and sitting on the sidelines.