By Sam Cortes, Communications Coordinator
Basketball is considered a contact sport, but isn’t a collision sport like football or hockey. It does, however, have one of the highest injury rates compared to other contact sports, with players in the NBA and WNBA having the highest risk.
Here are some of the most common injuries basketball players may experience and what you can do to prevent them.
MOST COMMON BASKETBALL INJURIES
At the amateur and professional level, an ankle sprain is the most common injury for a basketball player. It’s an injury to the ligaments that stabilize the ankle joint, most often the ones on the outside. It can happen when a player tries to move side-to-side quickly or when a player comes down from jumping and lands on another player’s foot.
There are two types of ankle sprains: an eversion and inversion sprain. An eversion sprain is when the ankle rolls outward and an inversion sprain is when the foot twists upwards, but the ankle rolls inward.
Strengthening and stretching your ankle is important to both preventing the injury and treating it. Once a player suffers an ankle sprain, they have an increased risk of injuring it again.
Knee Ligament Injuries
The most common ligament injuries among basketball players are the MCL and ACL. MCL injuries vary from a mild strain to a complete tear. If it’s the only injury, it can usually heal without surgery.
The injury of the ACL is most commonly a complete tear. This is a season-ending injury because it requires surgery to reconstruct the ligament, followed by a long rehab process.
Players can help prevent these kinds of injuries through a neuromuscular training program, which helps with strength and balance to keep the knee stable. Physical therapy is the first line of treatment, but if it’s severe enough, surgery may be needed.
There is a lot passing in basketball. Jammed fingers often occur when the finger, fully extended, hits the ball “head on” without bending. These kinds of finger jams can lead to immediate pain and swelling.
This injury isn’t considered serious and they can usually heal without medical intervention or the need for a trip to the emergency room. “Buddy taping” and icing can help athletes in as little as a week. If pain or swelling continues, it’s best to consult with a doctor or physical therapist.
This is a term used to describe an injury to the patellar tendon, which connects the kneecap to the lower leg. The tendon is put under a lot of stress because of the repetitive jumping and sprinting involved in basketball.
In mild cases, the tendon can be inflamed, but most often it’s a longer lasting injury that flares up during periods of intense activity. Seeing a physical therapist is a great avenue to get assessed and decide on treatment for the injury.
Getting ready to play can start before the player even steps foot on the court so that athletes are in good physical condition. This starts in the off-season with a balanced fitness program.
Players should also make sure to always warm up the muscles before they’re put to use. It’s crucial to stay hydrated as even mild levels of dehydration can hurt athletic performance. The body will not be able to cool itself efficiently through sweat and evaporation.
Make Technique the Focus
Playing with proper technique is essential to the game and its players. Whether it’s proper shooting technique or passing technique, it’s important players follow it to reduce injury.
It’s also suggested that athletes play only their position and know where other players are on the court to reduce the chance of collisions. And while collisions can be part of the game—holding, pushing, charging, or tripping opponents—they can cause injury to the athletes and others around them.
Wear the Right Equipment
Players should choose basketball shoes that fit snugly, offer support, and are non-skid. Mouth guards are used in many sports and basketball is no exception as they protect the teeth and mouth. If an athlete wears glasses off the court, they should swap them for sports glasses or goggles during practices and games. This will protect their eyes from injury but also let them see with a prescription.
Ensure a Safe Environment
When playing outside, consider the conditions and avoid playing in extreme weather or on poorly-lit courts in the evening. Indoor courts should be clean, free of debris, and have good traction along with non-skid shoes.
If you suspect an injury, book an appointment with one of the experienced clinicians at the Sport Manitoba Clinic.
American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. (2023). Basketball Injury Prevention. Retrieved from OrthoInfo: https://orthoinfo.aaos.org/en/staying-healthy/basketball-injury-prevention/
Cullen, MD, M. (2023). Common Basketball Injuries. Retrieved from Mass General Brigham Wentworth-Douglass Hospital: https://www.wdhospital.org/wdh/services-and-specialties/orthopedic-care/blog/common-basketball-injuries
NovaCare Rehabilitation. (2022, June 16). Top Five Injuries in Basketball. Retrieved from NovaCare Rehabilitation: https://www.upmc.com/services/sports-medicine/for-athletes/basketball
Toresdahl, D. B. (2016, October 26). Common Injuries in Basketball Players. Retrieved from The Playbook | Strategies to Keep You in the Game of Life: https://www.hss.edu/playbook/common-injuries-basketball-players/
UPMC | Affiliated with the University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences. (2023). Common Basketball Injuries and How to Prevent Them. Retrieved from UPMC Life Changing Medicine: https://www.upmc.com/services/sports-medicine/for-athletes/basketball