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Driving to the hoop may increase risk of knee injury for basketball players

Photo: simonkr/iStockphoto

Stanford, CA — The swish of the net. The squeak of shoes on the court. The pop of a knee? A recent study from the Stanford University School of Medicine shows that basketball players who frequently drive to the basket may be more likely to experience a torn ACL.

Researchers sought to identify attributes that might put professional basketball players at risk of tearing an ACL – one of the key ligaments that help stabilize the knee joint. Using existing data from the National Basketball Association, as well as archived injury reports and press releases, they identified 97 players who had torn an ACL since 1980. Data from 50 of the athletes was used for analysis.

Findings show that the risk of an ACL tear increases the more often a player drives to the basket to score. Of the players who had above average driving tendencies, 5.2% suffered the injury, versus 3.8% of those who had lower than average driving tendencies.


“When you see players driving to the basket, they might do a number of different lateral and frontal movements that can predispose them to ACL injuries,” Kevin Thomas, co-lead study author and a doctoral and medical student at Stanford, says in a video associated with the study.

The good news: Using an algorithm, the researchers found that the injured players were likely to make a full comeback. Said Thomas: “Everyone assumes they are coming back worse than they were before. We were really excited to find that wasn’t the case.”

The study was published in the Orthopaedic Journal of Sports Medicine.

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