Frequent Basketball Injuries and How to Prevent Them

Posted on 3rd August, 2022

Basketball is one of the most widely practiced sports in the world due to its simplicity and versatility that allows the game to be adapted to multiple indoor and exterior settings.

Although hard physical contact isn't allowed, the strenuous nature of the game involving fast-paced sprinting, jumping, landing, cutting, pivoting, and turning make injuries a common occurrence.

Whether it's professional players in the NBA or amateurs shooting hoops for recreation, basketball players face the same risk of sudden injuries and long-term conditions due to overuse.

Most Frequent Basketball Injuries

Regardless of skill level or age, basketball's dynamic exposes all players to similar types of risks; while they can be avoided to an extent with proper training and preparation, it's essential to keep in mind which injuries are most likely to happen and how especially since they usually occur when least expected.

  • Ankle and foot injuries - By far, the most common basketball-related afflictions are foot and ankle injuries resulting from high-velocity movements and improper impactful landing or player-caused harm by stepping on an opponent's foot. These injuries severely affect mobility and drastically limit the foot's loadbearing ability. Ankle sprains and fractures can lead to joint instability, and tendon strains or ruptures may require surgery if the injuries remain unresponsive to conservative treatment.
  • Thigh and hip injuries - The upper legs and hips are crucial for shifting the body's center of mass and being able to run, pivot, rebound and jump. Consequently, these movements also place significant stress on bones, joints, muscles, and ligaments, leading to overuse injuries like arthritis that require resurfacing or replacement to regain proper hip use.
  • Knee joint injuries - Unsurprisingly, knee injuries are frequent in basketball due to the high stresses and weight it supports during an average game. The twisting and cutting motions can affect the joint's ligaments and cartilage, leading to ACL tears and knee-cap disorders that can sideline players for extended periods.
  • Hand and wrist injuries - In a sport that involves passing, catching, dribbling, and blocking, about 11% of all basketball injuries affect the hand's joints and forearm. The fingers are most commonly affected, followed by the wrist. Due to the smaller bones involved in such injuries, repairs can be more laborious and require attentive recovery.
  • Shoulder injuries - Repetitive motions and the overextension of the arm associated with shooting and dunking increase the risk of shoulder injuries, which develop gradually due to the stress placed on the joint's muscles, tendons, and ligaments. Over time, players who overexert their shoulders can experience rotator cuff injuries, labral tears, and dislocations that require months of physical therapy to recover.

Injury Prevention

Sooner or later, every basketball player faces game-related injuries, ranging from mild and annoying bruising to more severe afflictions that can keep him out of the game for an entire season. Injuries can't always be avoided in a dynamic game like basketball, but taking common-sense precautionary measures can help prevent them:

  • Maintaining stable and healthy joints and muscles through endurance and strength training develops resistance and adapts the body to strenuous effort.
  • Properly warming up and stretching before training or playing decrease the likelihood of overextending ligaments and tendons.
  • Players should inspect the court for debris or slippery surfaces and avoid playing in unfavorable weather or without proper lighting.
  • Using proper footwear prevents sliding on the court, which can lead to foot and ankle injuries; similarly, ankle and knee braces, thigh pads, and compression sleeves can provide additional protection.
  • Strapping or taping can help support injury-prone areas like ankles, knees, and elbows, with the additional tension provided by athletic tape reducing stress on soft tissues.
  • Training and mastering proper technique prevent the most commonly occurring injuries and collisions with opponents.
  • Treat minor injuries conservatively using the RICE method (rest, ice, compress, elevate) to reduce pain and inflammation, and seek medical attention if the injuries remain unresponsive.