Updated: Sep 19, 2020
Chances are you're facing cancellations of all team practices, closure of rec centres and gyms, and a complete lack of insight as to when things will return to normal. You're far from alone, you're in the company of the entire basketball community.
Largely the mindset should be:
Stay ready so you don't have to get ready.
It will probably come as a bit of a surprise when team play is allowed to resume. At the same time, it doesn't look like it's coming soon. So that presents the question... What can you do during this time of abundant time and scarce resources?
For most high school, collegiate, and professional athletes basketball becomes a year-round commitment. This means you generally have very little time to recovery from the wear and tear of a season. You may never have this much time off again until you hang your jersey up for good. The next time you check into a game you should be
a) The healthiest you've ever been, and
b) In the best shape of your life.
Wait for next season. You're going to see a big gap between the athletes who decided to take this time off completely and the athletes that were intentional with their workouts.
The former will feel great at the start of the season, but will be out of shape and will quickly succumb to chronic injuries like jumper's knee because their body hasn't built up any resilience.
The later will also feel great, but they will also have the endurance and explosiveness to get right into high-paced practices and will be less likely to breakdown through the course of the season.
Let's get into the blueprint.
I am not a medical professional and the suggestions below do not replace medical advice. If you're dealing with an injury you should get a diagnosis before continuing with exercises specific to the area.
Some of the suggestions below require getting outside. As of March 27th in Ontario there are no restrictions on being outside, just a push to maintain social distance. When participating in any outdoor activities you should follow the social distancing recommendations and if guidelines around being outdoors are different in your area or in the future you should follow those first and foremost.
1) Pain/Injury Management
I'm going to specifically refer to tendinopathies here. The most common in basketball players tends to be the patella (jumper's knee), the achilles, and the plantar fascia (bottom of the foot).
There's two aspects to managing pain and injury that are highly relevant at this time. One, you have to recover from the wear and tear placed on your body from the previous basketball season (and seasons prior, if relevant). Two, you have to build up your mobility, movement quality, fitness, strength, and tissue resiliency to reduce the likelihood of future injuries.
The biggest key here is to move the hurt area as much as possible. Movement stimulates blood flow and blood flow stimulates healing, though everything you do should be pain-free. If, and only if, the smallest/simplest imaginable movement still causes pain (and you've been medically cleared to move) then the secondary goal is to minimize pain as much as possible.
A simple first step: Full body CARs (Controlled Articular Rotations) routine. I've included my video of hip CARs above, but you can easily find tutorials for full body routines on YouTube. Completion of a full body CARs routine will take every major joint in your body through its entire range of motion. This is important for maintaining mobility but it's also a great body scan to see what ranges you have control over and what ranges you might have pain in. Perform 2 reps per joint daily to keep them healthy. If you have a joint that gives you trouble double the reps.
It's important to understand that these tendinopathies commonly occur because the tissue wasn't able to adapt to the demands placed on it. Therefore we need to be able to load the tissue and increase the tolerance.
Isometric holds are the lowest stress type of load you can use, so it's a great place to start. With jumper's knee as an example, try a split squat hold. On day 1 try a 30s hold on each side. If it doesn't cause any pain, do a second set. Wait 2-3 days; if the pain hasn't gotten worse then you can repeat the exercise. Either make each set a little bit longer or add a third set (don't change two things at once though). Wait another 2-3 days and repeat. The rest in between is to make sure the exercise isn't too much for the tissue to adapt to. If you get reckless and move too fast this will just make the symptoms worse.
As long as the isometric holds aren't causing any pain and you've worked your way up to 3 sets of a minute or so then it may be time to implement some eccentrics. Eccentric refers to the lowering phase of the exercise, this is what we are going to emphasize. I personally like the eccentric lateral step down. To perform these use the bottom step of a staircase, standing sideways with one foot on the edge of the step and the other hanging over the edge. Slowly bend the knee of the leg that's on the step to lower the other foot to the floor; aim to make the downward portion of the movement last 5 seconds. Try 3-5 reps and again wait a few days to see if symptoms worsen. Over time, given no increase in pain, work up to 3 sets of 8 then look for something a little bit higher to step down from.