Basketball Injury Prevention

In General by Adam Friedman

Basketball is a highly demanding and competitive sport. Therefore, it is highly stressful to the body, and often leads to injuries related to overuse or contact with the floor or another player.  On average almost half of the players on a basketball team during the course of a season experience injury, and in some cases multiple ones.  In any given season, the number of injuries can be the major difference in wins and losses.

In approaching the design for a basketball strength and conditioning program, it is essential to know the common injuries, and how to reduce risk.  The greatest number of injuries resulting in more than seven sessions of time loss involved the knee, whereas the most common injuries causing fewer than seven sessions of time loss involved the ankle.  The most common cause of injury is contact with another player, especially in the “key”.  Injuries occur 3.7 times more often in games than during practice.1

The repetitive nature of basketball over the course of a season often results in overuse injuries that are result of continuous strain, breakdown of healthy tissue, and muscular imbalances.  Overuse injuries are most common in the lower extremities, and include inflammation, stress fracture, or tendonitis of the knee, patella, lower leg, ankle, heel, or foot.  Patellofemoral inflammation accounts for the most number of days missed related to overuse injuries.2

There is also a relative risk of re-injury, which is significantly increased by previous injuries to the elbow, shoulder, knee, hand, lower spine or pelvis.  This adds to the value of paying immediate attention to acute injuries so that they have less likelihood to turn more chronic and severe.  Treatment often involves consistent icing over a 72-hour period post-trauma, and possible corrective soft-tissue therapy, and corrective exercises and stretches.

Many of the most common injuries seen in basketball, such as ankle ligament sprains and knee internal derangements, may be at least partially preventable with interventions such as taping, bracing, and neuromuscular training.4

Ankle sprains are the most frequent and common basketball injury.  They are often minor, but each time there is trauma there may be resulting scar tissue that restricts the ankle’s full functional range of motion.  Less movement in the ankle creates more stress up the kinetic chain, especially more immediate at the knee and the hip.  Eventually this can add strain to the lower back, which is also a commonly seen injury in basketball.

An athlete with a history of an ankle sprain has a increased risk of sustaining a sprain, whereas athletes who perform intervention programs decreased their risk of a sprain by one half.5  Balance training through out a basketball training program has shown to support the ankle in its strength, proprioceptive ability, and recovery from an ankle sprain.

Evaluating imbalances of musculoskeletal structure, range of motion, and strength can often narrow down hot spots in the body, which may be the source for future injury.  From there, a series of corrective therapies can be prescribed to support healthy and optimal functional movement.

In designing strength and conditioning programs it is always a great idea to incorporate some of the same corrective exercises and stretches within a program to reduce the risk of future of injuries.

Some important stretches to focus on for basketball involve the hips and ankles.  Because of the high stress to those areas, they take the most punishment and become stiff at both the joint and the muscular level.  Knee injuries are often just a symptom of what is really happening at both the hip and the ankle.  Stretching both before and after is critical.

In regards to ACL injury prevention, factors to consider are gender differences, and contact verses non-contact.  Women are different from men in how they load their lower body due to having wider hips for child bearing.  This changes the angle at the knee and therefore at the ankle.  Therefore, women are more susceptible to having ACL injuries than that of their male counterpart.3

In regards to contact ACL injuries, leg and hip strengthening programs can reduce the severity of the injury, and can support in a faster recovery.  In regards to non-contact ACL injuries, neuromuscular fatigue has been shown to be a major contributor because of its affect on the body’s ability to accelerate and decelerate, and load and unload of basketball’s dynamic demands.6

Carefully planned work-to-rest ratios among practice, conditioning, strength training, agility & power, and games will support the reduction of injuries.  Dynamic movement warm-ups of 10 minutes are the best for preparing the body to play because of the way they are mimic the movements during practices and competition.

It is true that as athletes there really is no way to avoid injury completely when playing with 100% effort as is expected during practice and fierce competition.  That is why it is important to have a holistic approach to training that is focused on both performance and prevention.

To learn more, contact Advanced Athletics for a consultation.


1.    Meeuwisse WH, Sellmer R, Hagel BE.  Rates and risks of injury during intercollegiate basketball.  Am J Sports Med. 2003;31:379-385.
2.    Starkey C. Injuries and illnesses in the National Basketball Association: a 10-year perspective. J Athl Train. 2000;35:161-167
3.    Deitch JR, Starkey C, Walters SL, Moseley JB.  Injury risk in professional basketball players: a comparison of Women’s National Basketball Association and National Basketball Association athletes. Am J Sports Med. 2006;34:1077-1083.
4.    Dick Randall, Hertel Jay, Agel Julie, Descriptive Epidemiology of Collegiate Men’s Basketball Injuries: National Collegiate Athletic Association Surveillance System, 1988-1989 Through 2003-2004.  J Athl Train. 2007;43(2):194-201.
5.    McGuine TA, Keene JS.  The effect of a balance training program on the risk of ankle sprains in high school athletes.  Am J Sports Med.  2006;34:1103-1011.
6.    Kernozek TW, Torry MR, Iwasaki M, Gender Differences in Lower Extrimity Landing Mechanics Caused by Neuromuscular Fatigue:  Am J Sports Med.  2008;36:554-565.