Ask the Docs | Aging and Basketball Injuries

Posted February 22, 2006

Patient Question:

I’m a 40-something who still enjoys playing competitive basketball. In my advancing years, should I be worried about any increased health risks from playing this demanding sport?

Dr. Gregory Nicholson:

To answer your question with a question, how do your joints feel? If you’re not experiencing any significant joint swelling or pain, by all means keep at it. Basketball is a great sport for not only cardiovascular health, but for muscular health as well. That being said, the sport can take its toll on your lower extremities.

If you’re knees and ankles are starting to give you consistent trouble, then you may want to think about switching to a “low impact” sport. At your age, it’s also important to have a physical examination every year to make sure you’re in top playing condition.

Basketball Health Tips:

To help stay healthy on the court, try to maintain your conditioning throughout the year. Many injuries occur when your body is out of shape and your mind isn’t cognizant of your lack of conditioning. Warm up and stretch before play and following long breaks in the action. Invest in good basketball shoes with proper support and shock absorption, and many types of ankle and knee braces are very helpful. Finally, play within yourself and understand your physical limitations. Good luck and good health!

For more information about Dr. Nicholson and the Sports Medicine physicians of Midwest Orthopaedics at Rush, team physicians for the Chicago Bulls, call 877.MD BONES or visit them online at

The information contained on this page is intended only for general public education, and is not intended to serve as a substitute for direct medical advice. This information should not replace necessary medical consultations with a qualified orthopaedic physician.

Ask the Docs | More Patient Questions

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I recently pulled my hamstring during a game even though I stretched thoroughly before playing. Some of my teammates rarely stretch and they don’t seem to get hurt. Does stretching really do any good? For a detailed answer and treatment options, click here now.

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After I play basketball, my left knee swells considerably. With ice and rest it mostly goes away, but the swelling comes right back when I play again. What causes this? Is there anything I can do about it? For a detailed answer and treatment options, click here now.

ACL Tears:
While playing basketball last week, I felt a “pop” in my knee when planting my foot. I now have a considerable swelling and the knee feels unstable. Do I have ligament damage? For a detailed answer and treatment options, click here now.

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When I take a jump shot, drive to the basket, or jump to grab a rebound, I often feel a sharp pain behind my kneecap. What causes this? How can it be treated? For a detailed answer and treatment options, click here now.