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How to Prevent These Common Basketball Injuries


WRITTEN BY: Sports Medicine
Friday, April 1st, 2016

Basketball players are no stranger to injury. After all, the game is extremely physical. There’s the short, quick bursts down the court. All the sudden stops and starts. And people jumping, swatting, and shoving, doing anything they can do get the ball. With all that, there’s bound to be some sprains and strains.

So, if you’re planning to play hoops at the local court, or your son or daughter is involved in a recreational league, be aware of the most common basketball injuries and how to treat them.

Similar to professional and college basketball players, high school and recreational athletes are subject to various injuries because the sport involves:

  • Short, intermittent bursts of activity
  • Quick stops and starts
  • Physical contact

So, if you’re planning to play hoops, be aware of the most common injuries and how to treat them.

Common Basketball Injuries

Ankle sprains in basketball

When the foot is forcibly rolled inward or outward, ligaments that hold the ankle in place can overstretch or tear, resulting in an ankle sprain.

Ankle Sprain Symptoms Ankle Sprain Treatment
Pain on the overstretched portion of the ankle

  • Swelling
  • Bruising
  • Tenderness
  • Warmth to the touch
  • Rest
  • Ice
  • Compression
  • Elevation (for the first 24 to 48 hours post-injury)

RELATED: How to Wrap an Ankle or Wrist Sprain

Achilles tendonitis in basketball players

Achilles tendonitis is a common overuse injury in basketball, due to the forces placed on the tendon from jumping and landing.

The Achilles tendon is the fibrous structure that attaches the calf muscle to the heel of your foot. It allows the calf muscle to pull your heel off the ground and push forward while walking or running.

Achilles tendonitis occurs when you don’t stretch your calf muscles properly.

Achilles Tendonitis Symptoms Achilles Tendonitis Treatment
A dull ache or pain in the back of the leg, just below the calf muscle

  • Pain that increases after activity
  • Some diffuse swelling
  • Rest
  • Ice
  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medicine, such as ibuprofen
  • Orthotics
  • Taping to prevent further damage
  • Rehabilitation

Sever’s disease is another basketball injury related to the Achilles tendon, where it begins to tear away from the heel. This type of injury is most prevalent in young basketball players.

Patellar tendonitis in basketball players

Patellar tendonitis is a common overuse injury in basketball that affects the tendon connecting the kneecap (patella) to the shin bone.

The patellar tendon, along with the quadriceps muscle and tendon, provides the strength for straightening out the knee.

Patellar tendonitis occurs when repeated stress is placed on the patellar tendon. The stress results in tiny tears in the tendon, which the body attempts to repair.

But, as the tears in the tendon become more numerous, the body can’t keep up, causing the inflammation in the tendon to worsen.

Patellar Tendonitis Symptoms Patellar Tendonitis Treatment
Pain directly over the patellar tendon

  • Pain with activities, especially jumping or kneeling
  • Rest
  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medicine, such as ibuprofen
  • Stretching of the quadriceps, hamstrings, and calf muscles
  • Ice treatments
  • Use of support straps or braces

Muscle strains in basketball players

Muscle strains, or muscle pulls, occur when an athlete stretches the muscle beyond its normal limit, or when a load is placed on the muscle and it is not strong enough to counteract. This results in a strain or tear of the muscle fibers.

A muscle strain can occur in any muscle, and can result from physical activity without proper stretches and warm-ups beforehand.

Muscle Strain Symptoms Muscle Strain Treatment
Sharp pain in the muscle

  • A popping or snapping sound
  • Tenderness to the touch
  • Swelling
  • Discoloration
  • Rest
  • Ice
  • Compression
  • Elevation
  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medicine, such as ibuprofen, if necessary

 Muscle strains are diagnosed by:

  • Obtaining a thorough history of the injury
  • Palpation of the affected area to detect pain and defects in the muscle
  • Strength and flexibility testing
  • An MRI (on more serious strains) to determine the extent of the tear

ACL tears from basketball

The anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) is the primary restraint that limits how far the shin bone (tibia) slides forward in relation to the thigh bone (femur). When the ACL tears and that restraint no longer exists, the knee becomes unstable and may unpredictably buckle or give way.

A common knee injury in basketball, the ACL may suddenly tear without warning when an individual:

  • Decelerates
  • Cuts to the side
  • Lands awkwardly
ACL Tear Symptoms ACL Tear Treatment
An audible “pop” at the moment of injury

  • The slippage of the knee out of its joint
  • Severe swelling
  • Painful movement
Treatment may be surgical or non-surgical, depending on your desired lifestyle. The question is not so much your level of activity in the past, but the expectations for the future.

  • Surgical: If your goal is to continue an active lifestyle, ACL reconstruction surgery may be the treatment of choice, due to the fact that a torn ACL does not heal.
  • Non-surgical:Therapy consists of a period of protective bracing, with progressive return to the range of motion and muscle-strengthening exercises. The goal is to create natural stability for the knee by developing the quadriceps and hamstring muscles.


Finger injuries from basketball

Finger injuries range from simple cuts to bone, tendon, or ligament damage. X-rays may be taken to confirm a fracture.

If not properly treated, finger injuries can lead to deformity and permanent loss of function.

Finger Injury Symptoms Finger Injury Treatment
Pain over the injury site

  • Inability to move the finger
  • Bruising
  • Swelling
  • Deformity
  • For non-serious injuries, “buddy tapping” and/or splinting for everyday activities
  • For some finger injuries, surgical repair of the tendons to restore function

For athletes who have experienced sports-related injuries, UPMC Sports Medicine‘s orthopaedic surgeons, board-certified athletic trainers, and physical therapists will help to speed recovery and restore function. Call 1-855-93-SPORT (77678) to schedule an appointment or visit our website.

Sports Medicine

UPMC Sports Medicine is the region’s largest and most experienced program dedicated to treating, training, and inspiring athletes at levels, in all sports. Our physicians, surgeons, physical therapists, athletic trainers, sports nutrition, and sports performance experts are dedicated to helping athletes and active people recover from injuries, and even prevent them. Read More