Rise above the game

By Rick Olivares; Photographs by Paolo Picones of M4 Collective; Imaging by Glen A. Concio

3 Kinds of Sports Injuries

1 Acute Injuries A purely accidental injury from a single sudden incident, such as pulling a muscle or being struck in the face by an elbow

2 Overuse Injuries Injuries that develop because of improper stretching and conditioning

3 Chronic Injuries Injuries that occur after playing a sport for a long time. Symptoms of these include pain when playing, a dull ache when you rest, and swelling.
I am a force of nature. I am relentless. At 5’10” I had long legs to cover the length of the court with gazelle-like strides and long arms made for rejecting weak-ass shots. Only I was a late bloomer.

Dan Rose's 4-step program for Ali Peek:

1 Balance Techniques "To help him play under-neath the basket, he has to have a better sense of balance. To help him with his control, I make him do a variety of presses: bench, leg, and push. Ali weighs about 250 lbs. Ideally, he should be able to bench press double his weight."

2 Strengthen those legs "If you weigh 250 lbs and often go up for dunks, you should have strong legs that allow you take all that pounding and punishment your legs are subjected to."

3 Footwork drills "After working on his balance, we had to work on his agility and quickening his movements. Big guys aren't normally fast but we got him to work on his explosiveness that enabled him to get to the ball faster."

4 Water and fruit intake "Ali's a big guy. If the average person drinks 6-8 glasses of water in one day, Ali should be drinking more. The water and fruits helps keep his bones and muscles fluid and strong."

It wasn’t until after school when I came into my own and learned to really play basketball. My classmates, long accustomed to my sitting on the sidelines to heckle, now raised their eyebrows indisbelief. I was a frustrated basketball fan who learned the game after endless viewings of Come Fly With Me. It felt great to actually execute (minus the rim-rattling dunks of which I had none of the elevation for) what every ballplayer fantasized about after watching an NBA game.

But after a bit, the weekend warrior in me began to slow down, hobbled by an unknown ailment. In denial and still flushed with inspiration, I went on playing, ignoring the signals my body was sending. Why not? I was young and indestructible; or so I thought. If His Airness could play through the pain, I reasoned out (though half-convinced), then so could I. I was too chicken to go to the doctor until the pain got to the point where I had trouble going up and down the stairs. The explosiveness I once displayed fizzled out real early.

Turns out that all that pigging out, a misplaced belief that one can be young forever, and going through a misguided weight training program had done me in more than foes on the hardcourt.

The career I dreamed of was over before it got even underway.

Injuries are an athlete’s worst nightmare. For professional athletes it could mean an end not only to their career but also their financial stability. For weekend warriors like you and me, it could be the bitter end to a childhood dream and a means to stay fit.

A study by the American Center for Disease Control (CDC) found that 4.3 persons are treated every year for sudden sports trauma in emergency rooms. That telling statistic doesn’t begin to tell the whole story.

The figure is exclusive of the millions of weekend warriors who engage in athletic activity as a means of staying fit or satisfying their competitive urges. Since there is no national sporting body to keep track of this, conservative estimates would place the number of sports-related injuries to 10 million annually.

There is no surefire way to avoid sports injuries unless you avoid playing like the plague. For many, it’s a way of life. They grew up active in sports and in many ways, it defines them.

What follows are information on familiar injuries, and stories of inspiration to survive them. Read and learn. So you don’t wind up as another statistic.

6 Common Basketball Injuries

Next to drinking, it's likely your favorite after-hours activity. And like the bar, it's where you often get hurt. Here are the common complaints among casual and professional cagers:


Quick bursts of speed, sudden directional changes, and fatigue make for sore muscles after a hard-played game. Strains are most often a result of improper physical conditioning.

Treatment/Prevention: If you experience a painful muscle strain, ice it right away. Icing it on and off for 72 hours will help prevent swelling. A common misconception relates to applying hot compress, which will only aggravate the injury. So wise up, guys. Inflammatory medications are also helpful in combating muscle strains.

Professional basketball players should be religious about preseason workouts and conditioning. This allows them to cope better with long seasons and to peak at the right time. For recreational players, the inevitable muscle pain will be there unless basketball and other workouts become a part of your regular schedule. Work on quick bursts of activity. Sprint on both the lengths and widths of the court with and without the ball.


Rebounding in the crowded alligator wrestling pond (as former Chicago Bulls assistant coach Johnny Bach calls the shaded lane) is risky because you might get hit by an inadvertent or a well-planted elbow, or you could land on someone's foot that can hurt like heck. These are usually sprains to the ligaments outside the ankle that can just ball up like anything.

Treatment/Prevention: It would do well for you to remember the RICE Method (Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation). Icing it will help control the swelling that follows almost immediately after the injury. It is always advisable to see a physician to determine the gravity of the injury because at times, the ankle might be broken. Should you have a history of ankle sprains, we recommend that you wear an ankle brace in addition to taping your ankle.


It's not as fast as a baseball clocking in at 90-plus mph, but a basketball flying towards you and jamming a digit can be really, really painful.

Treatment/Prevention: Ice the finger right away then move it as soon as you can. If you think it's dislocated or you can't move it at all, see a physician and ask for an x-ray.

The most common knee sprain in basketball is the medial collateral ligament sprain or MCL. This occurs when a player makes a sudden change in position and cuts too hard. Bumping or hitting the outside of your knee on someone else's leg can likewise cause it.

Prevention/Treatment: All throughout we have stated the importance of preseason conditioning. It doesn't totally prevent injuries for there are many freak accidents that could happen in any given game. But it does help minimize occurence.

In treating MCLs, ice the knee even if the swelling doesn't seem all that bad. Try a knee sleeve for compression and make sure you work on your range of motion as soon as you can. A torn MCL is fairly serious and must be treated by the proper physicians.


Over a decade ago, an injury like this meant that your career was over. With the huge strides made in sports medicine, comebacks from anterior cruciate ligaments (ACL) injuries are now more likely. It's getting back to your previous game that's now the question. This injury is more common to female basketball players whose hip structures often lead to knock-kneed landings.

Prevention/Treatment: Unfortunately, there is no way to prevent an ACL injury. Basketball is a game played on instinct where your mind and body make lightning-quick decisions and movements. But practicing jumping and landing properly balanced on both feet and on the balls of your feet should help.

If you think you've torn an ACL, get immediate evaluation by an orthopedic surgeon. A torn ACL usually requires reconstructive surgery.


There is an assortment of back pains: bulging discs, back spasms, and scialtica, a pain that reaches from the lower back down to the leg. The most common culprit for this injury is improper stretching. Sometimes discrepancies in leg length can cause back pains.

Prevention/Treatment: Some injuries cannot be prevented; however, warming up properly greatly reduces the risk. Bulging discs and scialtica require medical treatment. Anti-inflammatory medication helps. For those with differences in leg length, you should consult podiatrists for orthotic lifts to correct the problem.

Get back in shape

Treatment and rehabilitation are quite costly. Unless you're a moneyed pro, how can the average athlete or weekend warrior avail of the treatment?

"The reason why it's expensive," explains Dr. Canlas. "is that we want these players to get to a premium right away. This is their livelihood." He advises to those without the means for proper strength and conditioning that simple knowledge of plyometrics can help them get better and stronger. "It is achievable but it takes somewhat longer," says Dr. Canlas. "Any weight training or workout program should be done or at the very least consulted with educated and licensed trainers."

To put it bluntly and brutally frank, there isn't much you can do about sports injuries. We can merely react to them and treat them.

But there are two ways that you can minimize the risk:

* Stretch. Do it before and after every sporting activity.
* Pace yourself according to skill level. Don't rush things. As you get better, you'll notice how gradually your body adjusts to new levels of difficulty.

Writing this has been a catharsis of sorts. I have mustered the courage to overcome my fear of doctors and needles to actually seek treatment for my aching knees and feet. Now I'm convinced of getting back into competitive shape and being pain-free. Basically, it's about staying healthy and being careful with one's body. After all, what's life without sports?

If you find yourself in a similar situation, hopefully, you'll feel the same way, too. And who knows? It just might not be too late to take one last stab at those hoop dreams.

More Suggestions for Sports Survival:

* Don't be a weekend warrior. Avoid doing a week's worth of activity in a day or two.
* Learn to play your sport right. Use proper form to reduce your risk of "overuse injuries."
* Use safety gear.
* Know your body's limits.
* Build up your exercise level gradually.
* Strive for a total body workout of cardiovascular, strength training, and flexibility exercises.

What To Do If You Get Injured

Never try to "play through" the pain of a sports injury. Immediately stop when you feel pain. Continuing to play may aggravate the injury. Some injuries require immediate medical attention, while you can treat others by yourself.

Seek medical attention when:

* The injury causes severe pain, swelling, or numbness.
* You can't put any weight on that area.
* An old injury hurts, aches, or swells.
* A joint doesn't feel normal or stable.

If you don't have any of these signs, it may be safe to treat the injury at home using the RICE:

R - Rest
I - Ice
C - Compression
E - Elevation


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