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Basketball: easy ways to avoid injury

  • Basketball is one of the most injury prone sports, with the most visits to doctors and emergency departments of any sport in the USA
  • Around half of all injuries sustained during games and training are minor injuries, resulting in less than 24 hours of restricted participation
  • The most commonly injured regions are ankle, knee and head/face
  • The single most common injury is an Ankle sprain, accounting for 1 in 6 of all basketball injuries

Injury prevention

The most effective method of preventing injuries uses a multi faceted approach:

  1. Training – strength training, along with jumping and agility drills, are effective at reducing almost all types of injuries
    • Strength training should focus on quads strength, to enable confident landing in a bent knee position (as explained in this post), and hip and calf power, using fast movements that mimic in-game jump techniques
    • Jumping and agility drills are used to acquire skill and well-controlled movement patterns. They need to rehearse forward-backward, lateral (sideways) and rotational patterns of jumping, landing and cutting/pivoting
  2. Support – ankle braces are more effective than ankle taping to reduce the incidence (frequency) of ankle sprains
    • We find these braces offer a great compromise between excellent protection from injury and sufficient movement for uninhibited performance. The brand is on the pricey side but has a great range of performance orientated protective braces for ankles, knees and shoulders
    • Ankle braces don’t lead to lazy weak ankles, as the old rumour claimed. The brace keeps the ankle in a position that’s less injury prone. It also provides proprioceptive (joint position) feedback to the brain to assist with control, a job that was previously performed by ligaments before they were damaged!
  3. Equipment and environment – correctly fitting basketball shoes and a clear training space (without obstructions such as cones and other balls) reduces the likelihood of an injury-prone situation
    • Snug fitting, well made basketball-specific footwear is a must for injury prevention – the Zion Williamson incident is an extreme example of this concept in action. Using shoes designed for other sports, such as running, significantly heightens injury risk as running shoes aren’t designed for sideways movement or rapid stopping
    • Maintaining a clear and predictable training space is a simple but effective way of avoiding some injuries during training. Loose balls on the court, items such as clothing or drink bottles and training equipment like cones or agility ladders increase the risk of ankle sprains

Most common injuries


Tips for initial response to injury

  • For all foot/ankle and knee injuries, use the Ottawa Ankle rules and Ottawa Knee rules to screen for fracture and the need for an x-ray
  • Ice packs should be applied to all injuries for the first 48 hours
  • Avoid anti inflammatory medication unless specifically recommended by a health professional as it can increase bleeding and delay recovery
  • Compression is most effective when applied very soon after the incident. Apply a broad firm compression via an elastic bandage or, if unavailable, wear compression tights
  • Corked muscles (muscle contusions) will worsen as soon as you stop moving. Compress as soon as possible and keep moving/walking when benched if you intend to have any further court time

Basketball injuries

To see our complete list of Basketball injuries, click here.