The player races down the court, dribbling the ball. Along the way, he dodges a few opposing players and almost collides with others. He halts briefly, then sends the ball soaring toward the basket. It flies through the net with a swish, and the crowd explodes in applause.

Today, the game of basketball is faster-paced and much more physical than when it was invented in the 1890s. Although these changes make for a pulse-racing, exciting game, they can also predispose players to a variety of painful — and sometimes devastating — injuries.

All told, basketball is associated with more than 1.6 million injuries each year. That doesn’t mean that you or your children can’t enjoy the game, however. Here’s a look at some of the most common types of basketball-related injuries, along with our top five tips for preventing them.

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Stay Safe on the Court: Common Basketball Injuries

Most injuries incurred during basketball are the result of physical contact, either with another player or with the ball itself. Injuries can also result from jumps, falls, and overuse. Common basketball-related injuries include:

  • Sprained ankles. An ankle sprain is the most common type of injury incurred during basketball. This injury usually occurs when one player lands on another player’s foot or the player’s ankle rolls outward. As a result, the ligaments that connect bones and support the ankle become stretched and torn.
  • Cuts and bruises. These usually occur as the result of physical blows or falls.
  • Knee injuries. Knee injuries often involve sprains or tears of the smaller ligaments, as well as the meniscus, the tissue that cushions the end of the bones in the knee joint. The anterior cruciate ligament, or ACL, is a large ligament connects the upper and lower leg bones and helps hold the knee in place. If you tear your ACL, your knee may give way. ACL tears are among the most severe of basketball injuries.
  • Jammed fingers. When the basketball hits the end of your finger, it can cause pain and swelling.
  • Overuse injuries. Stress fractures (typically in the leg), rotator cuff injuries (in the shoulder), and patellar tendonitis (in the knee) are the consequence of using the same area repeatedly until it is damaged. Osgood-Schlatter disease is another common overuse injury of the knee.

Five Tips to Prevent Basketball Injuries

1) Stay fit. Adhere to a good fitness routine during the off-season so that you remain in optimal physical condition even when you’re not playing. It’s a good idea to have a physical exam by your doctor before the basketball season begins.

2) Stretch it out. Cold muscles are more prone to injury. Perform a 10 to 15-minute warm-up before playing and stretch your muscles afterward.

3) Play fair. Use proper technique when passing and scoring. Play only your position, and refrain from pushing, holding, or tripping your opponents.

4) Check your equipment. Make sure that you are wearing basketball sneakers that fit properly. A mouth guard, elbow and knee pads, and ankle supports can also help keep you safe.

5) Take a break. You can decrease your risk of injury by taking regular breaks from basketball and engaging in other physical activities.

About Sports Medicine

Sports bring with them a potential for injury. And if you are looking to prevent, treat, or rehabilitate a sports injury, UPMC Sports Medicine can help. We serve athletes from a wide variety of sports across every demographic: young or old, male or female, pro or amateur. We partner with the Pittsburgh Steelers, Pittsburgh Penguins, Pitt Panthers, and over 60 high school, college, and regional teams and events. We’re working to build better athletes. We use cutting-edge rehabilitation techniques to help you recover and provide education on how to prevent injuries.