Sprains and strains share similar signs and symptoms, but involve different parts of the body. Sprains occur at joints and involve stretching or tearing of the ligaments that support the joint. Strains, on the other hand, occur when a muscle or tendon is stretched or torn. Most strains occur when muscles are stretched too far or too abruptly. Any muscle or tendon can be strained, but among basketball players, strains in the muscles of the lower back, the hamstrings, and the calves are most common.
Players with strains frequently complain of pain, tenderness, and swelling and may report a popping or snapping sound at the time of injury. Treating a strain is much like treating a sprain, so athletes should use rest, ice, compression, elevation, and anti-inflammatory medications as needed. Severe strains may require surgical repair.
To prevent strains, players should warm up and stretch thoroughly before every practice and game. Strength training and an emphasis on proper technique can also help protect muscles and prevent strains.
The Achilles tendon attaches the calf muscle to the heel of the foot, allowing the calf muscle to push and pull the heel for activities such as walking, running, and jumping. The frequent jumping and landing actions of basketball put repeated stress on the Achilles tendon and, over time, an overuse injury called Achilles Tendonitis can develop. Essentially, the repeated stress on the tendon causes tiny tears that become inflamed and cause pain and swelling.
Players with Achilles tendinitis should rest and ice the area and use anti-inflammatory medications as needed. Taping and bracing can help relieve some of the stress on the tendon as well.