What good is achieving max verticality if you’ll only end up on the bench come the big game against your archrival barangay with a smashed knee or a mangled ankle?
A 2015 PLOS ONE study conducted on football players found an increased risk for knee injuries when performing vertical jumps immediately after sprinting. This explosive movement, which is similar enough to your usual fast breaks can already kill your joints, but when coupled with your poor landing after your favorite jump shot, it’s really just a matter of time ‘til you get that express ticket to the ER.
“Improper high impact landing can cause sprains, strains, fractures, and torn ligaments or other connective tissues,” explains Coach Habagat Santos-Cuyugan of 360 Fitness Club Timog, who is also a member of the Philippine Parkour/Freerunning Association (PPFA) and a former parkour coach. “Basically, it can negatively affect the whole lower region of your body.”
Just think back to Kobe’s career-ending injury. He may have torn his Achilles tendon with that step through as he drove for the basket, but past injuries (as illustrated by this infographic) as well as damage from previous bad landings could’ve been a contributing factor. As Santos-Cuyugan puts it, “Pwedeng long-term nang nag-degrade ‘yung Achilles tendon niya.”
Now, this is not to say that The Black Mamba did not know how to land his jumpers properly. Admittedly, when it comes to game time a lot of other factors are at play. With your eye on the ball, it’s easy to overlook your footing...or the foot of your defender. However, the more you consciously practice proper landing technique, the more it becomes second-nature to you, thus, reducing your probability for injury.
This is a wake-up call, bro. To protect yourself from injuries and be able to show off your hard-earned jumping power when it really counts, you gotta learn proper landing mechanics. Here are the key things to remember:
1) Make sure that the soles of your feet are directed towards the floor
As you make your descent, be aware if the bottoms your feet are ready to absorb the impact evenly. “Some people kasi have the tendency or involuntarily invert or evert their feet which is one of the things that causes ankle sprains,” notes Santos-Cuyugan.
Inverting is when your foot goes inward and you land on the outer edge of your foot (like your typical tapilok stance) while everting is when it twists outward and you land on the inner edge.
2) Land on the balls of your feet
The ball of your foot is the meaty part just below your toes. This could efficiently take on the initial impact and evenly distribute the load up your legs. According to Santos-Cuyugan, “If you land with your heel, you’re removing one part of your leg that can act as a shock absorber which is your ankle.”
3) Follow the credit card rule
This is another critical point. Even after initial impact, the brunt of your weight should remain on the balls of your feet. You need to control the motion to minimize the touching of your heels to the ground and help direct the force upwards along your legs. Your heels should not completely touch the floor, and you should be able to easily slide a card under your heel area.
4) Bend your knees and hips
As you land, you should go into a partially squatting position. “This disperses the weight throughout the leg and activates your different muscle groups which helps the body bear more weight,” says Santos-Cuyugan. “If you don’t bend down, all the pressure will go straight to your bones and joints (hips, knees, ankles).”
5) Land with your feet shoulder-width apart
Santos-Cuyugan states, “For parkour, the ideal is to land with your feet together because it relates to balance and helps with the transition for the next move, but for basketball and the general population, shoulder-width apart is the ideal.” The rationale is similar to squatting mechanics and translates to better stability and ensures that your weight is not focused on specific joints of your legs.
6) Build better thighs
Strengthening your hip abductors and quads reduces the possibility of your knees collapsing under your weight, and prevents ACL, PCL, MCL, and LCL tears, explains Santos-Cuyugan. Stronger glutes, hamstrings, and calf muscles will also aid in load dispersion, so in short, DON’T SKIP LEG DAY, BRO! It’s for your own good.