Basketball will be on the minds of millions of Americans as they watch the NBA finals, but Loyola University Health System advises that before fans go out and play the game themselves, they need to take steps to reduce their injury risk.

More than 1.4 million injuries related to basketball in 2006 were treated at hospitals, doctors' offices, hospital emergency rooms, clinics and ambulatory surgery centers in the United States. The cost of these injuries is estimated at nearly $24 billion, according to U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.

"Couch potatoes, youngsters and weekend warriors can wind up in hospital emergency rooms for injuries related to basketball," said Dr. Pietro Tonino, Loyola's sports medicine program director. "Even experienced players can sustain basketball injuries."

A tear of the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) is a common knee injury in basketball. The ACL helps a person bend at the knee, squat and jump. The ACL is a rope-like bundle of fibrous tissue in the center of the knee that connects the front of the shinbone (lower leg) with the back of the thighbone (upper leg).

"To reduce the risk of an ACL injury, slightly bend the knees and hips when landing," said Tonino, associate professor, department of orthopaedic surgery and rehabilitation, Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine, Maywood, Ill. "Position the buttocks as if you were about to sit down in a chair, rather than standing upright. Land on your forefoot, not your heel."

"The ACL can be torn or sprained when the athlete twists, jumps, lands, pivots or suddenly stops," said Tonino. Females are two- to eight times more likely than males to sustain an ACL injury. Research is underway to determine why, but Tonino has made some observations.

"In contrast to males, females tend to land from a jump with their knees locked, which puts added pressure on the knee," noted Tonino. "The result can be a sprain or even a tear of the ACL. An ACL injury can be surgically repaired, but recovery and rehabilitation may take an athlete out of the game for months. Non-surgical treatment is available for mild injuries.

"Preventing ACL sprains and ruptures is worth the time required for training and exercise," said Tonino. Female athletes should strengthen their hamstrings, the muscles located in the back of the thigh. He said that the proper position to shoot a basketball is:

-- Feet shoulder-width apart

-- Knees slightly bent

-- Buttocks positioned as if one was about to sit down in a chair

-- Chest up

-- Eyes up

-- Athletes should not lean over or look at the floor.

"The NBA finals may inspire people to try basketball for the first time," said Tonino. "But before they do, they need proper conditioning and training in the sport to reduce their chance of injury. Many injuries can be prevented by knowing and playing by the rules of the game and being physically fit."

Loyola University Health System, a wholly owned subsidiary of Loyola University Chicago (LUC), includes the private teaching hospital at Loyola University Medical Center (LUMC),14 specialty and primary care centers in the western and southwestern suburbs, the Loyola Ambulatory Surgery Center at Oakbrook and the Loyola Oakbrook Terrace Imaging Center; and serves as co-owner-operator of RML Specialty Hospital, a long-term acute hospital specializing in ventilation weaning and other medically complex patients in suburban Hinsdale, Ill. Loyola is nationally recognized for its specialty care and groundbreaking research in cancer, neurological disorders, neonatology and the treatment of heart disease. The 61-acre medical center campus in Maywood, Ill., includes the 589-licensed bed Loyola University Hospital with a Level I trauma center, the region's largest burn unit, one of the Midwest's most comprehensive organ transplant programs, the Russo Surgical Pavilion and the Ronald McDonald® Children's Hospital of LUMC. Also on campus are Loyola's Center for Heart & Vascular Medicine, the Cardinal Bernardin Cancer Center, Loyola Outpatient Center and LUC Stritch School of Medicine. The medical school includes the Cardiovascular Institute, Oncology Institute, Burn & Shock Trauma Institute, Neuroscience Institute and the Neiswanger Institute for Bioethics and Health Policy.

Loyola University Health System
2160 S. First Ave.
Maywood, IL 60153
United States

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