Basketball Injuries – Causes, Treatment & Prevention

Basketball injuries are a concern for anyone who partakes of this activity on even an occasional basis. As would be expected for a running sport that requires plenty of rapid acceleration, twisting and turning to evade an opponent, knee and ankle injuries form a large portion of the potential injuries from which a basketball player occasionally needs to recover. This category includes ankle sprains and even occasional fractures.

However, basketball is also a contact sport and, as such, collisions between players and occasionally even between players and fixtures around the court are constant hazards. They can result in facial injuries (especially to the eyes or mouth). An awkwardly caught pass can also cause acute injuries such as jammed fingers or a sprained wrist.

We will cover both prevention and treatment strategies in more detail later on this page. However, as with any potentially harmful event, ” an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”. We will therefore also spend some time discussing injury prevention.

Common Basketball Injuries

Basketball player running and dribbling - the constant running can lead to many basketball injuries.

Some of the more common basketball injuries include:

Upper Body Injuries

Upper body basketball injuries can include:

Wrist Injuries

Injuries to the wrist or fingers resulting from an attempt to catch a sharp pass. More specifically, the player can suffer a broken or sprained finger or thumb as a result of such an attempt.

Wrist and/or hand injuries can also result from a collision between players or from a fall that a player attempts to break using an outstretched hand. In most cases, these injuries are relatively minor and can be treated using orthopedic tape or a thumb/finger splint allied to ice/cold packs and rest for a few days.

Facial Injuries

Facial cuts and other similar injuries are also a potential cause of harm when playing basketball. As mentioned above, collisions between players can happen, particularly when players on opposing teams are contesting a loose ball.

Of particular concern in these situations is the potential for injury to the teeth or other parts of the mouth. Injuries to the face may require stitches and bandages to prevent possible infection. If the injury is an oral one, it may require dental treatment to remove damaged teeth. While recovering, the player may be required to use a face guard to reduce the potential for re-injury.

Of course, wearing a mouthguard is an excellent way to proactively prevent injury to the teeth, tongue and gums as a result of a traumatic blow to the mouth.

Concussions

As with any sport involving physical contact between players, basketball players can experience concussions if they collide with another player or fall to the ground and suffer a sharp blow to the head. Most concussions will require days or weeks of rest and other treatments that are discussed further here. Wearing a mouthguard can be an effective way to reduce the potential severity of a concussion injury.

Lower Body Basketball Injuries

In terms of overall frequency, most sports injuries associated with basketball tend to be to the lower body and specifically to the ankles and knees:

Knee Ligament Injuries

The knee is particularly vulnerable to injury among basketball players. The sport, by its very nature, requires plenty of sharp acceleration and twisting/turning manoeuvres. These in turn can place great demands on the knee joint. The specific areas that tend to come under the greatest stress are the ligaments and meniscus of the knee. Knee ligament tears and damage to the meniscus are the most common basketball related knee injuries.

The most common type of ligament injury in basketball tends to involve the medial collateral ligament. Most of these injuries can be treated conservatively with a hinged knee brace or orthopedic tape to provide support to the injured ligament while it heals naturally. Ice and anti inflammatory medications are also useful to relieve pain.

Although the medial collateral ligament tends to be damaged most often, the anterior cruciate ligament, if damaged, can present a much more serious problem to a basketball player. Frequently, such an injury can put a player out of action for the rest of the season and may also require corrective surgery.

Ankle Sprains/Fractures

As with any sport requiring plenty of running, ankle injuries form a significant portion of the injuries experienced by basketball players. Ankle sprains are not uncommon. Fortunately, many of the ankle injuries can be treated conservatively and will respond well to a few weeks of months of R.I.C.E. treatment.

Deep Thigh Bruises

Deep thigh bruises (also called quad contusions) represent another category of injuries that basketball players risk. This is a particularly painful type of injury that involves damage to the muscles at the front of the thigh. It is usually the result of a direct blow to the front of the thigh that results in those muscles being crushed against the thigh bone. In treating these injuries, the R.I.C.E. strategy (rest, icing, compression and elevation) will normally suffice. Players can be expected to return to action withina few days or weeks depending on the severity of the injury.

Lower Leg Stress Fractures

Another type of injury that can be traced to the significant amount of running required in basketball in a stress fracture of the leg. These fractures are typically experienced in the lower leg or foot areas. Treatment will normally require a cessation of training and competition as part of an overall suspension of any weight bearing activity. The player may have to use crutches or a wheelchair to get around for a few weeks.

In addition, immobilization of the fractured area using a cast may be a part of the treatment. This treatment will need to continue until the injury is healed and the athlete can move around freely with no pain whatsoever.

How To Prevent Basketball Injuries

Complete prevention of basketball injuries is not a realistic goal. However, it is possible to significantly reduce the risk of their recurrence by taking some or all of the following precautions:

  • Try to stay properly hydrated at all times, and particularly during training or competition;
  • Warm up and stretch properly before commencing basketball (or indeed any other form of) activity;
  • Take steps to stay as cool as possible when playing in hot indoor conditions;
  • Try to maintain a high overall level of fitness. Strength training can be particularly beneficial in helping tom reduce the risk of injuries;
  • Avoid sudden increases in your activity level. Instead, the player should gradually increase his or her activity level over a period.
  • If an injury does occur, resist the temptation to return to activity prematurely. Instead, the player should resume activity only when completely pain free and he/she has been cleared to return by a qualified health care advisor.

Using Athletic Tape For Treatment of Basketball Injuries

If you have weak ankles or knees, or have previously had an injury in those areas, taping your ankles or knees may be the answer. With taping, your knees and ankles will have the support they need to help prevent re-injury. Wearing tape for basketball games can make all the difference between an early retirement on one hand, and remaining in the game until the very end.

Ankle Injuries

Ankle sprains are probably the most common ankle injury among basketball players.Many of these injuries are the result of jumping off the ground with both feet and landing off balance. This type of jump is common in basketball. Players with previous ankle sprains tend to be the ones most vulnerable to experiencing another sprain. A good way to guard against this is to wear adhesive tape to support and stabilize the ankle. Because it is low profile and can fit inside shoes, wearing adhesive tape for basketball practice or games is a sensible precaution. 

Together with other ankle sprain treatments, adhesive tape is also a great way to treat a mild sprain immediately after its occurrence.

Knee Injuries

Knee injuries are another category of injury that basketball players commonly experience. These include knee sprains and strains and patellar tendonitis (jumper’s knee). Basketball players also frequently experience meniscus and ligament tears. They can reduce the risk of knee sprains and strains, in particular, by prophylactic taping of the knee to stabilize it. As with ankle taping, knee taping will not interfere with mobility and is a practical option for basketball games or practice. Players who want to spend as much time as possible actively playing and training should consider wearing adhesive tape for their basketball play. As with ankle taping, wearing adhesive tape on your previously injured knee can also be an effective way to stabilize it and reduce the risk of injury recurrence.

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How Kinesiology Tape Can Help Treat Basketball Related Injuries

Kinesiology tape will help to mitigate the muscle soreness and fatigue at the end of a game or training session. In addition, basketball players can wear kinesiology tape during play for continued pain relief from overuse injuries. Kinesiology tape will help to lift the skin over the sore or damaged muscles and ligaments. The result of this lifting will be an increased flow of blood and oxygen into the injured area. This helps to promote a more rapid recovery.

In addition, kinesiology tape helps to speed the removal of fluids that are the by products of pain and inflammation from the site of the injury. This leads to increased pain relief.

Perhaps the greatest advantage of wearing kinesiology tape for basketball activities lies in the fact that, unlike many adhesive tape techniques, kinesiology tape does not restrict movement. Instead, it actually relies on the natural movements of the body to “lift” the tape and promote healing. This post explains the operation of kinesiology tape in more detail.

For basketball players, the areas that can benefit from wearing kinesiology tape include knees, ankles, shins and the back. The types of injuries would be mainly soft tissue or  overuse injuries. However, you can also treat acute sprains and strains using the tape.

Injuries That Must Be Treated By Other Means

Kinesiology tape will be best suited for treating overuse injuries. In the case of traumatic basketball injuries, alternative treatments will likely be preferable. For example, it would not be optimal for treating broken fingers or hands that can happen as a result of a finger jam while falling or trying to catch a pass.

Usage Instructions

  • For best results, apply the tape a few hours before beginning your game or training session.
  • Before application,  clean and dry your skin and remove lotions and creams.
  • Cut the tape to the required length
  • Stretch your muscles and bend your joints while applying the tape.

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Using a Calf, Thigh or Shin Support To Treat A Basketball Injury

With the sharp sprinting, stopping and jumping that is such an integral part of basketball, players sometimes experiences injuries to their upper and lower legs. Shin injuries in particular can arise. Players who have experienced  thigh or calf strains or other leg injuries need to rest the injured structures until recovery is complete. To assure a fast recovery, players can provide stabilization and support by using calf, thigh or shin supports for basketball activity.

Shin splints are probably the most prevalent type of leg injury in basketball. This overuse injury usually occurs after excessive training or after an increase in training intensity. However, it can also be the result of activity involving frequent stops and starts, such as basketball. Wearing shin supports for basketball games or practice can help to ease the pain and promote recovery. They will provide therapeutic compression to your injured shins and help to increase blood and oxygen flow through the area.

Players with injuries to the calves or thighs can wear compression sleeves over the injured area to receive a similar benefit. These supports will also prevent excessive vibration of thigh or calf muscles and ligaments.This will help to reduce the risk of recurrent damage to these tissues.

The better calf, thigh & shin supports for basketball players will:

  • offer a technology that allows them to adhere more closely to the injured area during intense activity. BioSkin Shin Splints, for example, offer a SkinLok™ feature that causes the brace to increase friction against the skin as a reaction to perspiration or other moisture;
  • provide therapeutic compression that promotes improved blood and oxygen flow to the injured area;
  • avoid the use of potentially allergic materials such as neoprene. Players who can wear the supports for longer periods without concerns about skin reactions will experience better outcomes.

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Use Hip & Groin Supports To Help Treat Basketball Related Injuries

Basketball requires a lot of sharp bursts of acceleration and sudden stops, which place great demands on the groin, hip and quadricep muscles  and ligaments.The result can be sprains or strains of the muscles and ligaments in those areas. Groin strains in particular can be very painful and require the athlete to undergo a period of active rest. This means that although the athlete can participate in physical activity, he or she should avoid those that cause any pain. During this period of active rest, the athlete can reduce the risk of re-injuring the groin by wearing one of a group of groin supports for basketball injuries.Similarly, hip supports for basketball players can help rehabilitate injuries like hip sprains.

Groin supports can be divided into two categories – compression shorts and groin wraps. Compression shorts are probably the most widely used groin supports for basketball injuries. They stabilize the muscles and ligaments of the groin and help prevent recurrence of groin strains.

However, compression shorts can also stabilize the soft tissues of the hip, quadricep and hamstring. As a result, they can also act as prophylactic supports to help prevent injuries to these other areas. 

Choosing A Support

When choosing from the many groin supports for basketball injuries, you should bear the following in mind:

  • You can wear compression shorts both on and off the basketball court. So even if you are healthy, you can use them to reduce the risk of groin injuries. Other groin supports may not be suitable for use while playing basketball as they may restrict movement.
  • Unlike groin wraps, compression shorts can also act as hip supports for basketball players.
  • Groin wraps are somewhat more adjustable than compression shorts in that the athlete can adjust the compression area. They also offer the ability to adjust the degree of compression as recovery progresses. 
  • Try to choose supports that are breathable and that allow your body to retain its natural temperature. Bio Skin Compression Shorts are an example of such a support.
  • Supports that wick moisture away from your body and allow it to evaporate will be more comfortable than those that do not.

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Face & Mouthguards & Basketball Related Injuries

Wearing a mouth or face guard while playing basketball can help to protect your eyes, nose, teeth, gums or other parts of your mouth or face from injury caused by accidental impact with another player’s elbow, hand or even head. Such accidental impacts can typically result in cuts to the face that may necessitate stitches. Using face & mouth guards for basketball games or practice is one way to cut down on the risk of facial injury.

Players who are uninjured may not need to consider wearing face guards. However, players who suffer a cut that requires stitches can use a face guard to prevent accidents that can cause the cut to reopen. Similarly, if a player has suffered a broken nose, the best way to protect it from another accidental blow will be to wear a face guard for basketball activity.

On the other hand, most players should consider wearing mouth guards for basketball games even if they have not previously experienced oral or dental injuries.  The cost of dental treatment for a lost front tooth can range into the thousands of dollars. This makes dental injuries something that you will want to avoid if at all possible. Wearing a mouth guard will not interfere with your play but they will always be there to protect the teeth from accidental impact from another player. To maintain a high level of protection, we suggest that you replace your mouth guard every couple of months, or at least every season. For more information about the benefits of mouth guards in basketball, please read this post.

When considering different mouth guards for basketball play, you will notice that some mouth guards come with a strap. Basketball players do not need this strap. It is used by athletes who wear helmets – they use the strap to keep the mouth guard attached to the helmet even when they are not wearing it. As a basketball player, the strap is not necessary for you.

Mouthguards To Consider

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Using Ankle Braces To Treat Basketball Injuries

Using an ankle brace for competition or practice will help to stabilize your ankle and protect it against the jumping, stopping and starting that you will frequently experience while playing your favorite sport. Even if you do not have a history ankle injuries, you can benefit from using an ankle brace as a preventive measure.

Ankle braces will also help your ankle to recover if you have developed ankle tendonitis or experienced an ankle sprain injury and are suffering from ankle instability as a result. In this situation, your ankle will require extra support to reduce the risk of re-injury. You will want to find an ankle brace that you can use both for playing basketball and for off court use.

Choosing An Ankle Support

When choosing good ankle braces for basketball, we suggest that you keep the following in mind:

  • The best ankle braces will be sufficiently  low profile that you can wear inside them your shoes, both athletic and everyday. These braces will provide continuous protection during the game. They will be ready to provide the protection you need when you land awkwardly after contesting a loose ball at the rim.
  • You should also look for a brace that will adhere firmly to your skin and not move around while you are wearing it. For example, the BioSkin Trilok comes with SkinLok™ technology that helps it to adhere more closely to your skin as a reaction to moisture like perspiration. 
  • Using light ankle braces for basketball is preferable as they will pose the least interference with your mobility.
  • Some braces come with anti microbial protection that will fight unpleasant odors or stains from perspiration, etc. These braces are obviously preferable, especially if you intend to wear the brace for basketball play.
  • Figure 8 ankle braces are intended to simulate the effect of taping the ankle. For this reason, some players may prefer them to other designs. The McDavid 195 ankle brace is an example of such a design.

For other factors to bear in mind when choosing a basketball ankle brace, see this post.

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How A Knee Brace Can Help Treat A Basketball Injury

Most knee braces for basketball knee injuries are purchased to help mitigate the symptoms of patellar tendonitis.  Patellar tendonitis, as well as Osgood Schlatter Syndrome, is one of the most common knee ailments among basketball players. It is usually the result of the frequent jumping, stopping, starting and sharp changes in direction that basketball players have to perform. Tears or sprains of the anterior cruciate ligament are also a common knee injury in basketball, as are knee sprains and strains, and meniscus tears.

Patellar tendinitis a.k.a. Jumper’s Knee is inflammation of the patellar tendon just below the knee cap. Basketball players in their teens are frequent victims of this condition.The  most popular knee supports for basketball players suffering from this overuse injury are knee straps that players normally wear just below the kneecap. They apply pressure on the patellar tendon to relieve the pain and allow healing. Examples of these knee straps are the McDavid Knee Strap and the LP Patellar Brace. Knee straps are light and low profile by definition, so wearing them on or off court is usually not a problem. As a result, they are a popular choice as a basketball knee brace. 

Choosing A Brace

Basketball players can also experience meniscus tears as well as tears or other damage to the anterior cruciate ligament of the knee. Recovery from these injuries can be promoted by using a knee brace. Without treatment, ACL tears can lead to osteoarthritis of the knee in the long term. The best knee braces for basketball players suffering from this condition are light, low profile braces that they can wear during games or practice. If you intend to wear a knee brace for basketball, you should also try to find one with anti microbial protection against unpleasant odours or unsightly stains. Wearing these braces continually will ensure that the player receives the maximum benefit in terms of knee stabilization and support. In addition, players with histories of experiencing these injuries and who wish to minimize the risk of recurrence can wear these braces. 

You can find some additional information on the best knee braces for basketball players with mensicus tears here

Suggested Knee Braces For Basketball Players

Using A Performance Sleeve To Improve Basketball Performance & Treat Injuries

Besides speed and agility, performance in basketball is heavily dependent on efficient use of the arm and elbow in performing actions like shooting and passing. Using compression performance sleeves for basketball can improve the efficiency of the arm or elbow. This will in turn help to improve accuracy of actions like shooting or passing for which the arm and elbow play pivotal roles.

Good arm performance sleeves for basketball will improve the kinetic chain that extends from the shoulder to the mid forearm. This will allow for more efficient energy usage while shooting or passing. Similarly, good elbow performance sleeves will optimize the kinetic chain that extends from the mid upper arm to the mid forearm, with similar results.

Any action that depends on elbow flexion and extension movements will benefit from the enhancement of this kinetic chain. Good basketball performance sleeves will improve the storage of kinetic energy during elbow flexion and the release of that energy during extension. For an example of this, please see the LP EmbioZ Elbow Compression Sleeve.

Other Benefits

In addition to improved kinetic chain performance, good performance sleeves for basketball will:

  • Improve proprioception, which is the instinctive ability of the upper limb (wearing the sleeve) to sense its position and orientation. Proprioception also helps avoid positions that increase the risk of injury. 
  • Provide compression to the limb wearing the sleeve. This in turn improves blood and oxygen flow to the limb and reduces muscle fatigue.  The player will therefore be able to play at a high level for longer periods. For more information on the benefits of compression, please read this post.

As basketball performance sleeves are meant  for wear next to the skin, try to choose one with a seamless design. It will improve wearing comfort and prove to be less of a distraction during your game or practice session. For more information on how compression works, please read this post.

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