Monday, July 30, 2007

Jump! - Plyometrics for Youth Basketball

You've heard and seen the ads.
Want to jump higher? Try this!!
Guaranteed to increase your vertical jump by 3-6 inches!!!
Learn the secret behind (insert celebrity athlete's name here)'s athleticism!!
Behind the explosion of products and programs designed to increase your vertical jump, there's a common thread: Plyometrics

What is Plyometrics?

Plyometrics is the use of dynamic movements that involve a rapid stretch of a muscle (eccentric muscle contraction) that is immediately followed by a rapid shortening of a muscle (concentric muscle contraction).
It's a type of exercise that helps muscle fibers learn to contract with more strength and speed which is especially helpful in an explosive sport like basketball.

What's more, childhood may actually be the best time to start plyometric training because a child's neuromuscular system may "learn" it's plyometric lessons more quickly than an adult who trains in a similar fashion.

Why is Plyometrics so Popular?

There are many potential benefits to plyometric exercises, including:

What are Some Different Types of Plyometric Exercises?

When most people think of plyometric exercises, they imagine someone doing jumps over hurdles or off of tall jump boxes while they wear special shoes.

But plyometrics can be as simple as skipping rope or doing jumping jacks. There are hundreds of exercises with thousands of variations that can be used to design an effective plyometrics program: cone hops, backward hops, single leg jumps, double leg jumps, power skipping, hurdle jumps, box jumps, alternate leg bounding... you get the picture.

Dangers of Plyometrics

Because of its emphasis on quick, repetitive eccentric/concentric muscle contractions, plyometrics tends to cause more muscle damage than some other types of exercises. Too much plyometrics (in amount or intensity) for a teenager can lead to muscle soreness and decreased performance. Too much plyometrics for a younger athlete can lead to tendon injuries.

So what should you look for in a good plyometrics program? More to come.......

Friday, July 27, 2007

IN MEMORIUM: George Edward "Skip" Prosser (1950-2007)

I was sad to hear that Skip Prosser, head basketball coach for Loyola (Md.), Xavier University, and, most recently, Wake Forest University, died yesterday of an apparent heart attack at the age of 56.

Don't know whether or not he had a family history of heart disease, but I can only imagine the toll that the physical, psychological, and emotional stressors of being a Division 1 Coach took on him.

He chose to be an ACC basketball coach and the lifestyle, risks, and rewards it brings, and he heard a great deal of criticism in recent years. I don't know how much this may have contributed to his untimely death, but the next time you feel like publicly second-guessing or putting down a hard-working coach, please remember that they're human beings who feel the sting of harsh words and ill actions just like anyone else, and temper your expression with the knowledge that, after all, it's just a game.

May God Rest his Soul.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Injury Prevention Links

Just added links to several good injury prevention programs, including ones to help reduce anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tears, concussions, sudden cardiac death, and dental injuries.
Scroll down to the bottom of the right blue bar and read what they have to say.
The body parts you save may be your own!

Monday, July 16, 2007



Now that you know how important it is to wear a mouthguard when playing basketball, let's talk about the 3 most common types of mouthguards you can purchase:

Types of Mouthguards

Ready-Made, Stock Mouthguards – these fit loosely over the teeth and the wearer usually needs to keep his/her mouth closed to keep in place. This can interfere with speaking (not to mention breathing) and can limit your effectiveness out on the court. While they are the least expensive, these are considered to be the worst fitting and least protective kind of mouthguard.

Boil and Bite Mouthguards – most commonly found in sporting good stores, these mouthguards are first put in hot water and then placed in the mouth so that it can be shaped to fit your teeth. When shaped correctly, they provide better protection than the stock mouthguards but they may not provide as much shock-resistance as custom made mouthguards.

Custom-made Mouthguards – These Mouthguards are custom-made in your dentist’s office and, when made properly, provide the best fit, comfort, speech and breathing. They also fit better over braces.

How to Know if You've got the Right Mouthguard

The right mouthguards should:

  • Fit properly and feel comfortable

  • Be easy to clean

  • Not make it difficult to speak or breath

    How to care for your mouthguard

  • Rinse your mouthguard before and after each use.

  • When not wearing it, keep your mouthguard in a sturdy container that allows air in through holes or vents.

  • Don’t leave your mouthguard out in the sun or hot water.

  • Don’t chew or cut pieces off your mouthguard.

  • Bring your mouthguard with you to your dentist appointments to check that it still fits.

  • Check it regularly and replace it when it's old (2-5 years), outgrown, or cracking.

For more information about mouthguards, go to

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Watch Your Mouth!

Under the basket, players are pushing and shoving for position to rebound a shot that’s just gone up. The ball hits the rim, bounces out and….. WHAM!!

Someone gets hit in the mouth with an elbow.

The referee blows his whistle and play comes to a stop while the trainer and coach runs out onto the floor to check on the player, hands held over bloody mouth, looking down on the floor for the tooth that’s been knocked out.

According to the American Dental Association an athlete is 60 times more likely to suffer harm to the teeth when not wearing a mouthguard. Since 80% of traumatic dental injuries occur to your top front teeth, mouthguards are important for athletes who don’t want to look like Leon Spinks or Bobbie Clarke. And for those of you who think this only relates to boxers and hockey players, studies have shown that basketball dental injuries are now 13 times higher than football (probably because high school football players have been required to wear mouthguards since the 1960’s).

Mouthguards act as a layer over your top (“maxillary”) teeth to protect them from impacts that might break or crack them and protect your lips and tongue from cuts from your teeth or braces.

How much can wearing a mouthguard help you? A 2002 article found that college basketball players wearing custom mouthguards had only 1/3rd as many mouth injuries as players who did not.

So why don’t more basketball players make like Dee Brown and get their ‘guards’ on?
It’s probably a combination of several factors:
  • While most football players consider mouthguards as part of their basic equipment, young basketball players often don’t get introduced to mouthguards until somebody (they or their teammate) gets hurt.
  • Most basketball coaches (and leagues) don’t require their players to wear mouthguards and don’t teach their players about them.
  • Not many players know that mouthguards will help prevent injuries, and even those who do may not actually wear them. A 2003 study of Australian basketball players found that only 30% of them were aware of mouthguards as protective devices and less than 2% actually wore one.
  • Mouthguards that don’t fit well can make it hard to breath and communicate, two important parts of playing basketball.
  • Even when they fit well, mouthguards take some getting used to, so the earlier a player starts with a mouthguard, the more likely they’ll feel it’s part of their basketball gear.
That said, the evidence points to the need for the youth basketball community, including parents, coaches and league officials, to consider mandating mouthguard use in both boys' and girls' basketball. As the game becomes even more physical, we are likely to see more dental injuries. We know they reduce the risk of injury, now we just have to increase knowledge about them and access to them.

In my next blog entry, I’ll cover the advantages and disadvantages of the 3 most common types of mouthguards and talk about how you can tell when you’re wearing the right kind so that you can show off your moves, and all your pearly whites, on the court.

Friday, July 6, 2007

Coming Back from an Ankle Injury

In a previous post (An Ankle a Day - June 22, 2007) , I mentioned that ankle sprains are the most common injury resulting from playing basketball.

Here, I’d like to talk a little about some important, but often overlooked, parts of a good rehabilitation program designed to not only return an injured basketball player to competition but to decrease his or her risk of further injury.

Since research has shown that basketball players with a history of ankle injury are almost 5 times more likely to sustain an ankle injury than those who have never been injured, it's important to take the extra steps to make sure you appropriately rehabilitate and protect your ankles before you get back in the game.

In the old days, basketball players were told to take some Non-Steroidal AntiInflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs) and Rest, Ice, Compress, and Elevate (RICE) their injured ankles for the first 24-48 hours after injury. That's still good advice because this first aid for ankle sprains will reduce the swelling (and pain, and amount of time you miss). After that, they were told to slowly "get back into it" and return to play when they could manage it.

Here's the problem with just returning when you feel ready -- the damage from an ankle sprain not only causes swelling, pain, stiffness and bruising,
but it also decreases the body's ability to avoid future injury.
  • When ligaments and muscles are overstretched, they become less strong, and less able to support the body.
  • When there's pain and swelling around the ankle, the muscles that move and support the ankle are used less often and can weaken, again becoming less able to support the joint and more likely to be re-injured.
  • The body's ability to respond and right itself from a fall onto uneven surfaces (like someone else's foot) depends on the athlete's balance (which can decrease from disuse) and proprioception (your ability to feel a joint's position). These split-second reactions depend upon your body's ability to provide quick and accurate information about where it is in space and an overstretched or injured muscle,tendon, and/or ligament doesn't provide it as well as an uninjured or fully rehabilitated one.

So, if you're one of the walking/running/jumping wounded who have sprained your ankle and completed your RICE program, you might want to add these to your rehabilitation regimen:

1) Get it Checked Out - If you're a couple of days past injury and you still can't bear weight on your akle, you should get it checked out by a health care provider to make sure that it's not something more serious.

Once you know that you're dealing with a sprained ankle, and know that it's safe to begin some serious rehabbing, you should find a physical therapist or athletic trainer and get a home instruction program that includes...

2) Range of Motion - You should have full ankle range of motion in all directions (think of being able to write the entire alphabet, in cursive, using your big toe as a pen) before returning to play.

3) Strength - You should have returned to (almost) full strength of your ankle, knee, and hip muscles on the side that was injured. Some experts like to especially focus on ankle dorsiflexion and eversion muscles that place the ankle in a more stable position.

4) Balance and Proprioception - You should work on your static and dynamic balance and proprioception before getting back on the court.

5) Ankle Supports - Some studies have shown ankle supports (stirrups, laceups, etc.) to be the most effective intervention to prevent severe sprains in unstable ankles.

While I wouldn't recommend it over professional help, you can find some basic ankle rehab exercises from the American Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Society here .

One last tip - When you do return to practice, try out the offensive drills first before you go to defensive drills. That way, you'll know where you're (supposed to be) going and be more in control of your body than when you have to react to other people's moves on defense.

Include the extra steps above in your ankle rehab program and you'll be less likely to reinjure yourself when you step back onto the court.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Happy Fourth of July!

Hope you have fun celebrating the Red, White, and Blue..

Monday, July 2, 2007

Why This Blog?

Basketball is a beautiful game.

It’s something that I’ve enjoyed throughout my life.
And I’m not alone.

Almost 450 million people play basketball somewhere on the planet.Whether it’s in front of millions of people at the NBA or World Championships or just shooting hoops on a makeshift court, people are loving the game.

My love began when I started playing in an instructional league at the age of 5.I got the “Jones” then and there.Now, almost 40 years later, I recognize that, while it offers physical, social, and other benefits, playing basketball can lead to injuries in the young and old.

Injuries cause pain, can cost thousands of dollars in medical care and rehabilitation, and can change the course of your life. Some may say it’s “the price you pay to play”, but many of these injuries can be prevented if the right training, equipment, and treatments are used.

As a physician at a large academic medical center, I’ve become aware of the wealth of research about injury prevention, health enhancement, and performance training that’s out there but has not been discovered and utilized by the vast majority of parents, coaches and players in our country.
This blog will help change that.

Youth Basketball Medicine will offer credible, reliable information about treatments, equipment, nutrition, training programs and more that will help improve the health, fitness, and performance of young athletes so that they can enjoy, and learn from, the game of basketball.

Last month (June 2007), I covered hydration issues, ankle injuries, speed training, eye protection, and the risks of overtraining.

Thanks to CR, SW and others for their feedback and support.

Let me know what YOU want to see me cover in the upcoming months.