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Embracing March Madness®? Learn to Protect Your Joints from Injury.

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We all have basketball on the brain this month. Whether you regularly hit the court with friends for some competitive three-on-three, or are just motivated to get out in the spring air and test your three-point range, know that basketball, while a great source of cardio and endurance, can put your joints at risk. Protect yourself while embracing the spirit of the season with these tips.

Never Skip Your Warm-Up

Never hit the court cold. Even college players participating in this year’s NCAA Tournament warm up before they start their game. Warming up helps to loosen joints, stretch muscles, and increase the flow of blood and oxygen throughout your body. Begin by warming up slowly, and then increasing the pace and effort until your breathing has quickened and your body feels flexible. Jog some laps around the court, accelerating your speed with each lap, and then shoot some baskets before the full contact play begins.

Strengthen Your Knees

Knees and ankles are two joints at high risk of injury for basketball players due to the quick-moves and fast reactive nature of the game. Mild injuries can include knee sprains while severe injuries can consist of torn ligaments. Protect your knees with regular stretching and strength building activities such as wall quad stretches. Position yourself into a lunge with your hands placed flat on a wall and the balls of your front foot flexed up against the wall to stretch and strengthen your back knee. Hold for thirty seconds, switch legs and repeat.

Strengthen Your Ankles

Jumping up for a rebound and coming down on the edge of your foot can put you at risk of rolling your ankle, which could mean a sprain, strain, or six weeks in a cast. Protect your ankles with strengthening exercises such as ankle curls. ­Stand with the balls of your feet on the front edge of a step. Raise up on your toes and relax back down, extending your range of motion as comfortably as you can. Perform ten repetitions.

Wear Protective Gear

If you have experienced an injury to a knee or ankle in the past, or experience mild pain and discomfort due to arthritis, consider playing basketball wearing a knee or ankle brace to protect yourself from an overextension.

Basketball can provide a competitive and fun form of fitness at any age, but don’t take the risks too lightly. Every year, approximately 1.6 million injuries happen on the court. Protect yourself and your joints so that you can keep playing all year round. Game on.

Keeping physically active is key to a healthy lifestyle, but sometimes it’s best to check with your primary care provider before you start to exercise.

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