The physical characteristics needed for each basketball playing position

written by

Steve McAdam

A basketball player returning to play after being injured needs to pass a series of tests. Both the type of tests and the results needed changes for each playing position. This is because of the different demands of the different positions. Height and weight are the common differences between centers, forwards and guards, but they’re not the only ones;

The ‘bigs’ need to be strong and powerful. They have been known for having the greatest upper body strength of the three groups (Cui et al. 2019).

The guards’ need for agility and speed were shown in a study by Delextrat (2009). This study identified guards as having the best results for agility, 30m sprints, single leg jump height and running endurance.

A forwards’ rehab can be more challenging as they need to demonstrate high speed and agility like the guards but also perform well with double leg jumping and upper body strength like the ‘bigs’.

All players returning to play need to have good quad strength and perform well with 10m sprints. These two tasks are comparable for all playing positions (Delextrat, 2009). The strengths of each position need to be considered throughout rehab. These skills need to be worked on and maintained, or if possible, improved while a player is in rehab.

Using the example of a 2-4 week ankle injury rehab period:

Ankles need to regain strength, flexibility and balance.

All players need to be able to sprint short distances and be able to jump and land:

  • Guards need to cross-train (cycle) to maintain speed and endurance in early rehab and then focus on change of direction drills in later stages of rehab.

  • Forwards work on strength and cross-training in early rehab and then on cutting, speed changes and multi-direction jumps in later stages of rehab.

  • Centers need to challenge themselves with upper body and core strength and will focus on ankle stability during rebounding and boxing out.

Playing positions can also influence the time it can take to return to sport successfully. Coaches, trainers and players all need to consider how to best maximise the time injuries may keep a player out of training or games to allow them to come back safely and ready to play well. For successful return to play we need to factor in the injury itself, the individual and their role in the team.

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