Thursday, January 19, 2017

Proper Conditioning & Stretching Decreases Lower Limb Injuries

Proper conditioning and stretching will minimize injuries when combined with effective strength training. Coaches all over the country have been trying to get to the bottom of the surplus of lower limb injuries -- especially with women's basketball players.  As a part of my graduate study, I researched leading causes in lower limb injuries and found the following to be prevalent: 
  • Collisions around the rim 
  • Landing off balance after a jump
  • Changing directions suddenly
  • Body anatomy - overweight and larger cup sizes can cause strain on the knees/ankles
  • Previous injuries on one limb can cause overcompensation on the other limb

I found these causes in various articles on line and from asking coaches I knew.  Then my husband and I began to create an injury prevention plan that we implemented on every team we coached.  So we have found that after 5 years of using this injury prevention guideline we have only had 3 ACL surgeries out of 72 players that we coached.  Of those 3 ACL injuries - 2 had previous ACL injuries and admitted to not taking the rehab process serious.  

The injury prevention plan that we implemented consisted of daily attention to detail and observation of how each player's body was responding to drills.  Keep in mind that no two bodies are made the same.  So you must be aware of each player's body type and normal body movements.  Below are our daily guidelines to properly condition and stretch our players which helped decrease our lower limb injuries.

  1. Stretching:  Every day we spent 20 minutes stretching starting with dynamic stretching (EX: high knees, butt kicks, walking lunges, high knee skips, knee grabs).  After a few down and backs of dynamic stretching, circle up for static stretching (EX: bend over and touch toes, hamstring stretch, pigeon stretch, butterfly stretch, groin stretch).  Resistance band stretching was next and players should be able to get deeper into each stretch by now.  Each stretch should be held for 15 seconds.  The last 2 minutes was for players to stretch any area that felt tight.
  2. Agility drills:  We included a form of agility drills to warm their bodies up, such as speed ladders and cone drills to name a few.  With the ladders we would tell players to focus on their foot placement and making sure their feet were hitting each square - this causes them to not just go through drills, but focus on their foot movement and placement.  This is so valuable because where ever your feet go - your body will follow.  So if players can be in control of their feet, they can be in better control of their body.  With the cone drills - these were always short distances to practice breaking down and changing direction quickly.  Players were trained on how to have proper stance and chop their feet to prepare body for change of direction.  This is a great form of conditioning as well, but our teams always had fun doing these high energy drills.  Also include defensive slides to practice those quick changes of direction.
  3. Sprints:  With women's basketball, full court sprints must be conditioned daily because that's what the sport requires.  These sprints should be consistent with your style of play.  For example if you like to press or play up tempo, a lot of sprint conditioning is needed to build endurance for this style of play.  Running a simple down and back is just not sufficient conditioning for basketball players.  Players need to run 5 or more sprints at a time.
  4. Jumping and Landing on Balance:  Our belief is that rebounding is a great way to control possessions for your team.  So we taught and practiced rebounding techniques every drill of every practice.  A huge part of rebounding is jumping and landing on BALANCE!  We would practice this with basketballs, medicine balls and tennis balls by throwing the ball off the wall and having players pursue the ball with 2 hands and 2 feet.  We would practice landing on 2 feet at a time with bent knees on the balls of your feet.  One sign that players are off balance or landing too hard is how loud the landing is.  So I would always remind them - soft landing.  Bend those knees and use your whole body to absorb the landing.  
You can always e-mail us at to get a sample practice plan or season practice schedule sent to you.  We love sharing our experience to help others be successful.  You can always visit our website for free information and blog posts at 

These are suggestions that we make based on our own experience and research.  We highly recommend that you as a player or coach would consult your doctor or athletic trainer before making any sudden changes to your normal work out routine.  Implement some of these strategies slowly and pay attention to what areas your body needs most.