The sports injury madness of March Madness


MARCH 2015 – If you love college basketball then you love March Madness.  Is your team a favorite, a Cinderella story, a bubble team or will March end in heartache?  The anticipation and tournament stories excite us.  Who’s going pro vs returning next year?  Which team falls short with a key player sidelined by a sports injury?  Can anybody beat Kentucky this season?

These human stories captivate us and the faces of both players and fans reflect the intense emotions experienced win or lose.  As a movement specialist, I love watching these kids move but there’s another story that concerns me most.  

Sport, at all levels, has accepted injury as part of the game.  “Sport injury emergency department visits exceed $935 million each year.”(1)  Most are musculoskeletal in nature occurring to ligaments, muscles, bones and other joint structures.   “Ninety-six percent of Americans feel it’s important for young athletes to be evaluated by a qualified health care professional before they begin playing sports.” (1)  Yet sport physicals fail to adequately assess musculoskeletal injury risk and focus on cardiovascular, pulmonary, and concussion screening.

Even at collegiate and professional levels movement screening isn’t used enough; common basketball injuries like tendinitis, shin splints, Achilles rupture and recurring ankle sprains are viewed as an unfortunate part of the game.  Of course not all injuries are preventable.  Injuries caused by sport contact will occur.  Players will roll ankles landing on another player, jam fingers, break bones and suffer ACL tears in awkward collisions.

However, movement screening can decrease the risk of many non-contact injuries common in sport and ensure full recovery post injury to minimize the risk of future injury.

Health & Fitness ReportOveruse injuries are maddening for athletes.  Causes include excessive tissue strain from poor control, improper training and lack of sufficient rest.  Even youth athletes are subject to overuse injuries with the prevalence of sport specialization and year round sport.  The body requires muscle balance and rest to function optimally.

The belief sport injuries are part of the game results in emphasis on treating symptoms and restoring play rather than understanding predisposing factors for injury. Unfortunately, pain free is not problem free. While most musculoskeletal injuries are treatable, “prevention of injury is critical because previous history is often a risk factor for future injury. Players with one or more previous injuries have two to three times greater risk of injury compared to those without previous injury.” (1)

Injury beliefs can change. Cases highlighting long-term effects of concussions in collegiate and professional athletes changed how we screen, manage and prevent concussions. It’s widely accepted poor trunk and hip control increase risk for ACL injury and ACL prevention programs work. So, as you watch the Madness this March, I encourage you to challenge your injury beliefs. Look to professionals in the sport performance and physical therapy fields that specialize in movement testing to help you understand and address underlying factors that can limit your full potential on and off the court.


Article by Danielle Debbrecht, PT. Danielle is a physical therapist and movement specialist at CORE Strategies Physical Therapy, Sport Performance & Medical Fitness in Overland Park.  The CORE team specializes in rehabilitation and performance training for clients of all ages and activity levels. To learn more about CORE’s sport specific programs visit  Contact Danielle at

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