March Madness is here, so it’s time to discuss stretching for basketball. The fundamentals of basketball are simple to grasp; dribbling, the jump shot, the chest pass, the rebound.  Competitive-level players have mastered these abilities on a basic level and are always looking to hone their skills to improve their game.  The sport played at such a level requires quickness and agility, as angle, direction, and explosiveness of each movement is constantly changing.  Effectiveness of these movements is minimized in players with limited range of motion. By implementing specific stretch protocols into a basketball player’s daily routine, performance can be enhanced.

The stop-and-go nature of the game requires both agile and explosive movements. Proper extensibility of the quadriceps, adductors, glutes, hamstrings, and calves is necessary for those fast-breaks down the court, or powerful movements to the basket.  Dynamic stretching beforehand increases oxygen and blood flow to those muscles, preparing them for full range of motion through the joints.  It also stimulates the nervous system to increase awareness for performance.  It is this enhanced neuromuscular ability that could give a player that advantage early in the game.

Incorporating stretching into a basketball warmup can also help prevent injury.  Some of the most common basketball injuries include lateral ankle sprains, patellofemoral inflammation, and hamstring strains.  While injuries occurring from trauma to the area are unpredictable, others can be prevented using stretching. By stretching muscles surrounding the hips and knees, the stress of those muscles on the knee joint will decrease.  For example, the pulling sensation felt on the kneecap in those with patellofemoral pain can be lessened by stretching the IT band, quadriceps, hamstrings, and calves.  Decreasing the amount of stress on a joint can reduce inflammation and bring muscles to their optimal length without overlengthening them.

Although lower limb injuries make up the highest portion of basketball injuries, it is also vital for basketball players to maintain proper flexibility in their trunk and upper body.  Lumbar strains and sprains are the most common after lower limb injuries and are caused by trauma or overuse.  The twisting, pivoting, and bending movements a player must make to create space, combined with a rigorous schedule, predispose the muscles to overuse. Our lower back stretches emphasizing the quadratus laborum, lumbar fascia, and multifidus, will help relieve the tension carried in the lower back, bringing these muscles to their optimal length pre and post-workout.

Keeping a basketball player in good range of motion can only help to keep the body aligned and flexible to optimize performance.

Written by Ariel Scheintaub. Ariel is a Stretch Therapist in our Tribeca studio.