Basketball is a fun indoor winter sport that often results in injury. “I used to call it a finesse sport,” David Smith, MD, medical director of Youth Sports at The University of Kansas Hospital Sports Medicine and Performance Center said. “Now, it’s a contact and collision sport in both men’s and women’s competition.” Smith says the most common injuries happen to the athlete’s lower extremities … knees and ankles with ankles being the most common. “But they’re still taking hits to the head, elbows to the face … falling backwards or landing on their backs after landing hard following a lay-up,” Dr. Smith said. Concussion in basketball is also more common than most people imagine. To avoid injury, Smith offered three keys to success: food, water and conditioning. First, Smith reminds athletes to give their bodies the proper fuel with a good diet and solid nutrition. He’s not a big fan of supplements and cautions that a balanced diet is the best source of power to keep a player in the game. “Supplements are not regulated by the FDA,” Dr. Smith said. “Sometimes the body can’t process the pill like it does food resulting in a buildup of potentially dangerous product in the body or discarding it making for expensive urine.” Dr. Smith worries most about energy additives in many supplements that might not be apparent and the combining of supplements without proper nutrition counseling. Second, Smith encourages athletes to reach for water first before electrolyte or energy drinks which can pose complications when overused. Despite cooler temperatures, basketball players can become dehydrated even when playing in climate controlled gyms. When asked about how much water an athlete needs, he says a lot and just to keep drinking until your urine is clear. Third, Smith says athletes need to keep up with their conditioning which should be a good balance of aerobic and weight training combined with stretching. “Don’t over-do it,” Dr. Smith cautioned. “Keep up with your conditioning to avoid injury and if you suffer a sprained ankle, knee or back … seek medical attention if pain persists following ice and rest.” In the video below, Dr. Smith offers more detail with nutrition, hydration tips and advice for taping ankle sprains. Broll includes conditioning video of high school players and athletic trainers in action at a basketball game.