Preventing Common Injuries for Young Basketball Players

Basketball has only been around since 1891 when Dr. Naismith invented it using two peach baskets and a soccer ball. As you can imagine, Dr. Naismith would likely be both shocked and delighted at today’s progression with faster pacing, incredible dunks, and the addition of technology.

With the faster pace comes considerably more excitement and a higher risk of injuries. An estimated 1.6 million basketball-related injuries occur each year.


Basketball places significant stress on little bodies, and it’s more than just running back and forth. It’s jumping, fast stops and starts, sprinting, and rapid directional changes. When the body tires, it’s natural to stop using the correct form, and that is when our bodies have the greatest propensity to become injured. It’s also a contact sport where bodies can collide, and falls can occur.

Injuries in basketball are more common since it is played year-round indoors and out, which can both present opportunities for damage. The good news is that they are usually not life-threatening.

Most Common Injuries

There are several ways to injure yourself on the basketball court. A few of the most common injuries include:

  • Jammed Fingers: Many of us recall the jammed fingers we experienced in gym class while practicing basketball. A jam happens when the ball hits the tip of our fingers, and they swell to the size of an enormous cigar, and they hurt! Thankfully some ice and taping the finger to its neighboring finger for a few days solves the problem. Occasionally, professional medical attention may be needed along with an X-ray to ensure that it isn’t broken.
  • Injuries to wrists and hands aren’t as common as you might think. Only about 11 percent of all basketball injuries are related to hands and wrists. The best way to prevent injuries of this nature is just to remain vigilant about how you use your hands and keeping them and your wrists in good condition. Looking away before you catch the ball creates the most significant risk for injuries of this nature.
  • Not only is running on a court aggravating to our knees, so is a fall. Those quick cut overs, sharp stops, and starts that are so amazing to watch can also lead to torn ligaments, pulled muscles and ACL tears. Sometimes ice and immobilization can take care of a minor knee issue; however, all too often, knee injuries can become much more severe to the point where surgery is the only corrective solution. And in some cases, the season is over based on the severity of the damage.
    • Patellar tendonitis, also known as jumper’s knee is another common malady.
    • Patellofemoral pain or runner’s knee occurs when you feel pain in the back of your knee.
  • Ankle sprains are another common injury, and for our kids, this type of injury can affect the growth plates. This injury should be appropriately evaluated by a physician to be safe. Often, the old standby of rest, ice, compression, and elevation (RICE) can solve the problem.
  • Elbows to the face or an errant ball can lead to facial cuts that likely just need to be cleaned and bandaged to get back in the game. If they are deeper cuts, stitches or at least a butterfly tape may also be necessary.
  • Thigh bruising, which can be created by falls or hits to the upper thigh can most often be addressed with ice. Many players also wear thigh pad girdles as protection.
  • Stress fractures can be caused by overuse and are most common in the lower leg or foot and should be diagnosed by a physician. Immobilization is usually required to allow for proper healing and for the pain to subside.
  • If you accidentally bump heads, you should immediately follow concussion protocol. Fortunately, in most cases taking a ball to the face is minor; however, do not take concussion risks too lightly. Concussions are a serious business.


Preventing injury and minimizing the impact of an injury is essential. Following are a few tips you can use to achieve both:

  • Get a physical at the beginning of each season.
  • Always stay adequately hydrated during practices and games.
  • If playing outdoors, be aware of the hot and humid conditions and take regular rest breaks and you may need to increase your levels of hydration.
  • Stay in good physical condition, stretching and yoga are both recommended as well as aerobic, strength and agility training. Injury rates increase in players who are not physically active on a regular basis.
  • If you are subject to little or no activity because of an injury, be sure you ease yourself back into your typical routine slowly to avoid re-injuring the same area.
  • Sometimes less is more, and it helps to deter overuse-related injuries. Practice does make perfect, but when your body tells you it’s time for a break, take the break, please.
  • Please never return to any exercise routine post injury without your doctor’s permission.


Sever’s Disease

Young children are subject to Sever’s Disease, which is a condition where the heel bone growth exceeds the leg growth. You may also hear it called calcaneal apophysitis. It is most prominent in adolescents and is caused by too much stress on the heel, and that includes overuse. It is an expected possibility for kids who are active in sports.

If your child is complaining of pain in the back of the heel, you should have it checked by a professional. The pain can become so excessive that it can cause a limp or an inability to continue playing. This type of injury isn’t usually visible. Your child may notice it most, either at the beginning of a season, or if they are beginning a new sport and using different muscle groups.

Treatments include:

  • RICE
  • Heat
  • Stretching the hamstring and calf muscles regularly
  • Physical therapy
  • Orthotics
  • Medication

Usually, children grow out of the condition within two to eight weeks, and it can be prevented by:

  • Avoiding excess stress or overuse (like running on hard surfaces).
  • Maintaining flexibility by performing regular stretching exercises.
  • Wearing well-fitted shoes with good support and shock absorbers.

Osgood-Schlatter disease is also common in young teens. Tenderness in the upper shin or a bump or swollen area are both typical signs of this disease. The area may feel warm and painful to touch and if hit, you can rely on hearing a yelp of pain. For boys, this occurs most between the ages of 12 and 14 and for girls, it can happen a bit earlier between the ages of 10 and 12. Treatment for this is much the same as Sever’s disease.

The bottom line is that any physical activity can subject us to various injuries; however, as we’ve noted there are prevention techniques for many types of ailments that may happen. The best defense is strong offensive actions like keeping healthy and in shape, taking care of your muscles through proper warmth and cooling down periods, staying well hydrated and following the rules of the games.

What types of basketball injuries have you and your children experienced? We heard one story of a young lady who was accidentally pushed into the wall and left the game with a bloody and broken nose. Her Mom reports that her nose was never quite the same again!

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Preventing Common Injuries for Young Basketball Players

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