7 Most Common Basketball Injuries

Sports Injuries

Mar 26, 2024


As one of the most popular sports played among both children and adults, basketball is a great and social way to keep yourself active and healthy. However, if you are ever curious about what sport has the most injuries, you may be shocked to hear that basketball injuries are some of the most common in the world of sports. The game’s fast-paced nature and the strain players put on their bodies can lead to a range of injuries — no matter your age or skill level. 

Whether you’re a court regular or a concerned parent of an aspiring player, understanding what the most common basketball injuries are, how to provide treatment for basketball injuries, and basketball injury prevention is crucial for keeping you or your young athlete in the game and off the bench. 

The most common basketball injuries include:

  • Ankle sprains
  • Wrist injuries
  • Knee injuries
  • Jammed fingers
  • ACL tears
  • Stress fractures 
  • Concussions

1. Ankle sprains

What is the most common injury for basketball? Because basketball requires pivoting, abrupt stops, and jumps, the ankle is very susceptible to injuries, especially sprains. Ankle sprains occur when the ligaments are stretched beyond their limits — this can happen when a player lands wrong, twists excessively, or rolls their foot. Sprains can range from mild to severe, but each requires attention and care for full recovery. Weak ankles can also be at higher risk when landing from a jump or collision. 

How do I know if my ankle is sprained?

Sprained ankle symptoms can include:

  • Pain and tenderness when touching or applying pressure.
  • Swelling is a common response to injury as the body sends extra fluid and blood to the affected area to promote healing.
  • Damage to blood vessels during the injury can result in bruising, leading to discoloration of the skin.
  • The pain, swelling, and bruising may result in difficulty moving, walking, or putting weight on the foot after the injury.
  • Depending on the severity of the sprain, you may feel mild to moderate pain.

2. Wrist injuries

From dribbling to shooting, the hands and wrists are involved in nearly every aspect of the game. This, unfortunately, makes wrist injuries one of the more common basketball injuries that we see in the emergency room. Fractures, dislocations, and sprains can occur from collisions, falls, or simply from the impact of the ball. 

How do I know if my wrist pain is serious?

Symptoms of an injured wrist can include:

  • Swelling
  • Bruising or discoloration 
  • Warm feeling around the wrist
  • Popping or tearing feeling inside the wrist
  • Pain
  • Limited mobility

Getting a proper diagnosis will often require imaging in the form of X-rays, and treatment may involve immobilization through a splint or cast. If necessary, rehab and physical therapy can then aid in returning strength and functionality to the wrist.

3. Knee injuries

Due to the high-intensity, stop-and-go maneuvers of basketball, the knee joints are always under a significant amount of stress. The knees can suffer from a range of injuries in basketball, from tendonitis (also called jumper’s knee) to more severe injuries like ACL tears. In the most severe cases, your loved one may experience a tear that could prevent them from playing the remainder of the season. 

How do I know if my knee injury is serious?

If after a knee injury, you feel severe pain, can no longer walk, or your knee looks deformed, head to the emergency room. The following symptoms can indicate various injuries like knee sprains, ligament tears, meniscus damage, or fractures:

  • Swelling
  • Bruising
  • Redness (can also be warm to the touch)
  • Instability or weakness
  • Stiffness
  • Difficulty straightening or bending the knee 
  • Popping or crunching noises

What will the ER do for knee pain? Diagnostic tests using X-rays and CT scans can be used to figure out what damage was done to your knee. Treatments may involve immobilization with a brace, splint, or crutches, and pain management. ​​More severe knee injuries may require surgical intervention and extensive rehabilitation.

4. Jammed fingers

Although jammed fingers may not seem that serious, finger injuries can be just as painful and persistent as those to ankles and wrists. If the ball makes contact with your fingers in a weird way, like when failing to catch a pass correctly, the impact can cause the finger to jam and cause the joint to swell. This jamming affects the ligaments and, in some cases, could result in a fracture. Sometimes the pain occurs quickly, but other times it can occur over the course of the game.

You’ll know you have jammed your finger or have sustained a broken thumb if there is:

  • Pain
  • Stiffness
  • Swelling
  • Tenderness
  • Deep bruising 
  • Limited motion, ability, or numbness 
  • Physical deformities 

Management involves relieving pain, stabilizing the joint, and potentially splinting the finger. Like other tearing or breaking injuries, physical or occupational therapy may be necessary to restore range of motion and strength.

5. ACL tears

The rigorous demands of basketball can lead to devastating tears of the ACL, which is the ligament that is responsible for stabilizing the knee joint and can sideline players for months at a time. ACL tears can occur from rapid changes in direction, ​​landing awkwardly after a jump, or colliding with another player.

The consequences can be immediate, with a popping sound signaling the injury, followed by these symptoms:

  • Pain and swelling
  • Tenderness
  • Instability in the knee
  • Pain in the back of the knee
  • Decreased range of motion in the knee joint
  • Inability to extend the injured leg

For minor injuries, conservative treatment such as physical therapy may suffice; however, if you fully tore your ACL, in most cases, surgery is required. The focus is on regaining strength, restoring knee function, and ultimately getting back on the court.

6. Stress fractures 

Stress fractures — tiny cracks in the bone, often caused by repetitive force and overuse — can occur in basketball when there is a rapid increase in activity level or training, and most commonly occur in the foot and lower leg.

Players may experience pain that worsens with activity and decreases with rest (although in some cases, the pain may remain persistent even with rest). The affected area may be tender to the touch or swollen which are typical signs of a broken bone.

Depending on the severity of the stress fracture, you may not be able to put weight on the impacted body part. Stress fracture recovery may require immobilization or protective footwear and you may have to sit out more than a few games. Because stress fractures can be caused by overuse, be sure to gradually get back into the game by playing for bits at a time until you’re comfortable. 

7. Concussions

Concussions are one of the most dangerous basketball injuries to look out for. Concussions are mild traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) that are caused by impact to the brain that causes it to shake back and forth. In basketball, concussions and other head injuries can happen as a result of accidental collisions, falls, or contact during intense plays.

Symptoms of a concussion may include:

  • Confusion
  • Severe headache
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Blurred vision
  • Ringing in the ears
  • Sensitivity to light and/or noise
  • Difficulty speaking or slurred speech
  • Memory loss or other cognitive difficulties
  • Changes in personality 

Is a concussion an emergency?

Yes, any head injury should be treated as an emergency. Regarding the severity of concussion, sudden movement can cause damage to the brain’s cells in minor cases but can cause internal bleeding in severe cases — and can even be fatal. If you believe that you have a concussion, stop playing immediately and have a medical professional evaluate you as soon as possible. 

What will the ER do for a concussion? Once the doctor thoroughly checks your head injury, X-rays and CT scans will be used to confirm the diagnosis. After you get your results, they’ll create a treatment plan based on the injury’s specifics. Most concussion patients just need rest and monitoring for their brains to heal. The doctor will also tell you how long to avoid physical activity depending on how bad the concussion is — which may put you on the sidelines for a while. 

How to prevent common basketball injuries

Understanding what the most common basketball injuries are is only half of a good defense. While basketball injuries range from minor to severe, even the mildest sprain can be prevented. Practicing safe play and implementing preventive measures can significantly reduce the risk of sports-related injuries and mishaps. If you want to know how to prevent common basketball injuries, here are some tips to follow:

  • Do a proper warm-up before every practice and game
  • Incorporate specific stretches that prevent injuries and tears*
  • Wear the appropriate protective footwear and equipment  
  • Do not neglect strength and conditioning to get back into shape 
  • Refrain from returning to play until fully healed
  • Prepare for environmental conditions
  • Stay mindful of your body and its limits

*Preventive exercises to avoid basketball injuries can include strength training, balance and stability exercises, flexibility training, agility drills, and dynamic warm-ups. 

How long or arduous your basketball injury recovery will be depends on the type of injury you’ve sustained, how severe your injury is, and your body’s ability to recover. While resting, physical therapy, and other rehabilitation measures are common forms of treatment for basketball injuries, the best way to understand the type of recovery plan you need is to see a medical professional as soon as your injury occurs. 

Injured in basketball? Complete Care can help you get back on the court.

The most common basketball injuries can range from mild to catastrophic, but with education, awareness, and preventative measures, you can step onto the court with confidence. Remember that accidents happen and that if you get hurt during a basketball game Complete Care is here to help.

Our 24/7 freestanding ER has all of the tools necessary to provide ample treatment for basketball injuries. With lower wait times than a traditional hospital or emergency room, we can examine your injuries in no time. Our hospital-grade imaging services can provide you with results in minutes so that we can compile a recovery plan to get you back on the court as soon as possible. 

Don’t let March Madness land you in the ER. But if anything happens, we have multiple locations in Texas (Austin, Corpus Christi, Dallas/Fort Worth, East Texas, Lubbock, and San Antonio) and in Colorado Springs that are ready to care for you, your loved ones, and your teammates. 

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