Pre-season women’s basketball is here. Hopefully, during the off-season, you’ve focused on restoring mobility to your ankles and hips, worked total body strengthening and conditioning, and played another sport to round out your skills. Now it’s time to reduce fatigue and prevent injuries.
Lower-body injuries, especially in the ankles and knees, are all to common. Most frequent are ACL injuries, followed by generalized patellofemoral pain and tendinitis. In non-contact situations, landing, jumping, decelerating and cutting can cause injuries.
Here are some knee and ankle drills to help keep you on the court and out of rehab.
For ankle stability, perform heel walks (toes off the ground throughout the movement), and toe walks (heels off the ground) in a dynamic fashion: forward, backward, crossover and while dribbling.
Single-Leg Passes. Stand on one leg across from a partner while making chest passes, bounce passes, overhead passes and behind-the-back passes without losing your balance.
Single-Leg Calf Raises. These improve endurance and calf strength and eccentrically train the Achilles tendon (another common area for basketball injuries).
Backpedal Shuffle. This drill works on proper hip position while changing direction.
- Begin at the baseline and backpedal to the free-throw line.
- Squat and slap the floor, then slide laterally to the left sideline.
- Slide back to the middle of the court.
- Squat and slap the floor, then backpedal to midcourt.
- Squat, slap the floor and slide to the right sideline and back.
- Repeat this sequence to the far free-throw line and baseline, alternating the direction of your slide at each line.
- Finish by sprinting to the starting point.
Cut Drill. This one focuses on core control and body position to protect the knee while cutting. Set up cones or hurdles in a zigzag pattern. Run around the cones, making fast cuts with your outside leg planted and your head leaning into the turn (like a speed skater).
Transitional Movements with Plyometrics
- In place, perform three Two-Legged Hops.
- After the third hop, land in a lunge position with your right leg in front.
- Alternate back to three hops, then land in the lunge with your left leg in front.
- Perform this for 20-30 seconds.
- Sprint from one sideline to the other and stop in a squat position just before the line.
- Focus on good deceleration mechanics with your knees over your toes without your knees coming together or your body falling forward over the line.
Speed Ladder Single-Led Hops
- Perform Single-Leg Hops through a speed ladder.
- Once the ladder is complete, sprint to a basketball on the floor.
- Pick up the ball, dribble sprint and shoot a layup.
- Jump as high as you can.
- While in the air, turn 180 degrees.
- Land under control, receive the weight on the balls of your feet and sink into a squat.
- Once you’ve performed the plyometric jump for several seconds, sprint across the court and decelerate into a squat while still moving your feet.
To protect the knee joint and especially the ACL from injury, the hamstrings, glutes, and hip abductors must all contribute to any movement that requires deceleration, change of direction, or positioning of the knee in a squat or lunge.
- Perform a proper Squat.
- Perform a Dynamic Forward Lunge.
- Bring your trailing leg forward and squat.
- Complete the rep with a Forward Lunge with the opposite leg.
- Continue this pattern from one baseline to the other.
Russian or Nordic Hamstring
- Kneel on a towel with both knees and have a partner hold your ankles.
- Lower yourself by using an eccentric contraction of the hamstrings.
- Return to a tall kneel by using your hamstring muscles.
- One set of 10 will wipe out the hamstrings of a novice.
Single-Leg Romanian Deadlift with Quad Stretch
- Stand on your left leg and lean forward, pivoting at the hip to eccentrically lengthen the hamstring.
- Reach your left hand toward the floor and simultaneously grab just above the ankle with your right hand.
- Pull the quad into a stretch.
Single-Leg Squat with Partner
- Face and hold hands with a partner.
- Both of you gradually squat down on a single leg, maintaining good knee position with your hips dropping to the back and your knee over your toes, not falling inside the instep of the foot.
- Go down as far as you can and return to standing.