How to Treat the Most Common Basketball Knee Injuries


Men playing basketball at local gym.

Nothing beats a game of basketball! The combination of cardio, agility and balance, and mental concentration make it one of the best ways to build camaraderie and keep active. Whether you’re playing in a league or enjoying a pick-up game with your friends, shooting hoops is one of the best — and most fun — ways to stay in shape.

But all that running, jumping, and fancy footwork can come with a price. In fact, a 2004 US Consumer Product Safety Commission study found that basketball players experience more injuries than any other sport — more than a third of all sports injuries in America occur while playing basketball.

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t play, though. So what kinds of injuries should you look out for? And what’s the best way to treat pain and injuries if they occur? Let’s take a closer look.

The most commonly injured body part in basketball is the knee. High-impact moves send a lot of energy traveling through an athlete’s body, and it’s often absorbed by the knee. Because of the stresses put on this vital joint, bone injuries are rare in basketball. It’s generally the tendons and ligaments that are damaged.

Man and woman playing basketball outdoors.
Even nagging knee injuries can keep you from playing the game you love.

3 Common Knee Injuries

Patellar Tendonitis

Sometimes called “jumper’s knee,” patellar tendonitis is caused by overuse of the tendon that connects the patella (kneecap) to the tibia (shin). This is a common injury experienced by more than 14% of all athletes. Recovery can be extremely slow, taking up to a year.

Because it’s an overuse injury, patellar tendonitis can rarely be traced to a single event and it has a tendency to sneak up on athletes. Symptoms include aching pains near the bottom of the kneecap. This pain generally disappears when the knee isn’t in use.

If treated in the early stages, several treatment options are available. But continuing to play while experiencing patellar tendonitis can lead to a complete tear of the tendon, which will likely require surgery.

Meniscus Tears

The menisci are two pieces of cartilage that provide cushioning between your thigh and shin bones. Traumatic knee injuries — especially involving unusual twisting or rotation of the knee — can cause a meniscus to tear.

Symptoms include knee pain and swelling. In extreme cases, you may actually feel the physical sensation of the cartilage blocking your knee joint, making it impossible for you to fully extend or retract your knee. Some patients describe their knee as “locked.”

Ligament Sprains and ears

There are four major ligaments in your knee: 

  • Anterior cruciate ligament (ACL)
  • Posterior cruciate ligament (PCL)
  • Medial collateral ligament (MCL)
  • Lateral collateral ligament (LCL)

These ligaments are the strips of tissue that hold your bones together at the knee.

Your knee ligaments are incredibly strong and play a major role in your body’s stability and balance when walking, running or jumping. Sometimes you might land wrong, causing the bones to bend in the wrong direction and stretching out the ligaments as they strain to hold your knee together — a sprain. In a particularly bad case, the ligament might be stretched beyond its breaking point, resulting in a tear.

Knee sprains are incredibly common. Anyone who watches sports is familiar with the infamous ACL injury, which is caused by a sudden stop or a direct impact to the knee from the side (like when someone from the other team crashes into you).

Knee sprains are classified into three levels, from I to III. In a Grade III injury, the ligament is torn completely and surgery may be necessary. However, even with a Grade I injury, it’s important for athletes to seek treatment and help their body heal. Ignoring the injury is likely only to make it worse.

Foursome playing basketball.
Traditional knee pain treatments can put you at risk of further injury.

Traditional Treatment for Knee Injuries

Depending on the severity of the injury, traditional treatment for an injured knee can include any of the following:

  • Wraps or braces
  • Applying ice and heat
  • Pain killer drugs
  • Steroid injections
  • Surgery

In almost every case, a knee injury will require lots of rest so the tissue can heal, which means you could miss out on some great games. Surgery might speed up recovery but comes with plenty of its own risks, from anesthesia allergies to wound infections.

Pain-killers, whether injections or pills, mask the pain. Pain is an important signal from your body that something is wrong, though. If you only cover the pain with drugs, but don’t address the underlying injury, you risk repeating the damage before it’s healed and making the injury even worse.

Friends playing basketball outside.
Because prolotherapy helps stimulate your body's natural ability to heal itself, this non-invasive treatment can get you back to the game you love.

Prolotherapy Offers Surgery-Free Therapy for Knee Injuries

Prolotherapy is an all-natural treatment that helps trigger your body’s natural healing without the need for risky surgery or risky drugs. During prolotherapy, an irritant is injected at the site of the injury, increasing the signals that warn your brain of damage. This helps the brain focus more of your body’s resources on rebuilding that soft tissue and getting your knee back to full strength.

A 2016 peer-reviewed review covering 32 studies found that prolotherapy displayed an absence of reported side effects and, “should be considered as a treatment for pain and dysfunction associated with chronic musculoskeletal conditions.”

Any surgery has risks — anesthesia, surgeon error, lifelong scarring. Wouldn’t you rather help your body use its natural healing abilities?

With prolotherapy, your body doesn’t have to be cut open or filled with chemicals.

Our patients at TruHealth tell us again and again how prolotherapy treatments helped them get back on the court. Isn’t it time you talked to someone about your options?

Schedule a Consultation Today

Friends playing pickup at a local court.
When you find a great pickup game, it can make a workout fun.

4 Great Places to Catch a Pick-Up Game Near Santa Rosa

We’re lucky to live in a beautiful area with great weather year-round. Naturally, there are a ton of great places to play basketball, rain or shine.

Sonoma County Family YMCA
1111 College Ave, Santa Rosa CA 95404

24 Hour Fitness - Santa Rosa Super-Sport
3550 Industrial Ave, Santa Rosa CA 95403

Airport Health Club
432 Aviation Blvd, Santa Rosa CA 95403

Parkpoint Health Club
1200 N Dutton Ave, Santa Rosa CA 95401

Did we leave out your favorite court? Let us know!

Additional Reading

Common Basketball Shoulder Injuries that Hurt Your Game (& Remedies)

Basketball requires a lot from your upper body, and shoulder injuries are common. Repetitive motion from shooting can cause irritation of the shoulder and rotator cuff muscles. Discover common basketball shoulder injuries and how to address these pains so you can experience long-term relief.

5 Reasons Prolotherapy Helps You Avoid Knee Injury

Tired of suffering from knee pain, but want a non-surgical solution? Prolotherapy is a non-invasive approach that helps you heal naturally.

Prolotherapy for Knee Pain with Dr. Justin Hoffman NMD

Knee pain and Knee injuries often respond well to Prolotherapy and PRP injections.  Dr Justin Hoffman is a Prolotherapy specialist treating knee pain and knee injuries for well over a decade.

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