Jumping big but landing soft – helping to prevent ‘Jumper’s Knee’

written by

Nick Harrison

Basketball players need a balance of athletic skills to play well and to stay healthy.

The best athletes can land and jump back off at maximum speed in the shortest possible time often resulting in the plays we love to see - highlight-reel dunks or blocks.

If players can master the art of landing softly, they will avoid injury.

‘Jumper’s Knee’ is an overload of the patella tendon. It causes pain and reduces a players’ ability to play well.

This injury impacts as many as 34% of elite basketball players (Hutchison, 2019) and is very difficult to settle during a season. That is why prevention, rather than treatment, of this injury is really important.

Van der Worp (2014) highlighted a player’s landing technique can be a risk factor for developing ‘jumper’s knee’.

They reported, athletes that land with stiff knees and bodies showed greater patella tendon overload on scans. Whereas players that landed with flexible knees and upright bodies reduced the risk of developing ‘jumper’s knee’

(Davies, 2019) – stiff (left) vs flexible (right) landing

Not all landings can be and should be slow in basketball but having the ability to land softly is the key for injury prevention.

Coaches can help players practice these movements by giving them simple landing cues such as “land softly”, “sink down on your landing” and “look up when you land”.

Landing is a skill and all players will improve at different rates. Focus and attention are the keys to developing this skill.

Start simple – try 3 sets of 5 reps, landing from a vertical jump to get a good technique.

You can also incorporate jumps with good landings into their players’ warm-ups.
Once again, start simple with forward and vertical jumps, progress through to multi-directions and then incorporate some shooting or passing!

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