How to Prevent Youth Basketball Injuries

Basketball is one of the most popular sports around the world. The risk of injury is present but there are ways to reduce such an incidence. Trauma during training or playing can occur at any skill level. While it is impossible to eliminate chances of injury, the following should be the aim of any basketball player or coach:

  • Aim to lower the chances of an injury from occurring
  • Aim to lower the severity of such injuries when and if they occur
  • Aim at reducing post-injury morbidity

The Incidence of Basketball Injuries

According to a study published in the American Journal of Sports Medicine, high school basketball injuries are fairly common. The study revealed that there is variation depending on the gender. Boys were found to be more likely to suffer from fractures and contusions while girls suffered from more concussions and knee injuries. The most common basketball injury related surgery required in girls was found to be knee surgery. Overall, girls suffered more injuries than boys.

The study also found that the rate of injuries was higher during competition than during practice. What does this suggest? Maybe that the mode of training, the level of skill of the player and gender are points to consider in basketball associated injuries prevention.

Understanding these epidemiological factors can be helpful in helping to prevent, or more accurately to reduce, injuries in this sport.

What Are the Common Basketball Injuries?

Basketball injuries can be divided into two broad groups. One – combative injuries that include body contact with another player or with the ground. Two – injuries that involve the player alone such as sprains and torn ligaments. Body contact injuries are unpredictable and can happen even with best players at professional level.

On the other hand, individual player-related non-contact injuries can be reduced with proper training. Injuries in this category are usually associated with:

  • Poor landing
  • Accelerating moves
  • Decelerating maneuvers
  • Sudden twisting/turning moves
  • Cutting or pivoting moves

Specific and common injuries include:

  • Jammed fingers
  • Ankle sprains
  • Sprained knee ligaments
  • Torn knee ligaments
  • Foot fractures
  • Thigh and other leg bruises
  • Foot fractures. The common type of fractures here are stress fractures that are more common with a suddenly increased rate of training.
  • Pelvic injuries (fractures and dislocations)
  • Facial cuts
  • Concussions
  • Contusions

Risk for Basketball Injuries

In order to prevent or reduce basketball injuries, it is important to identify factors that increase their risk. According to U.S.A Basketball common risk factors include:

  • Poor muscle conditioning
  • Assuming poor gait and posture
  • Any previous injury
  • Accumulated fatigue
  • Foot anatomy such as flat feet
  • Physiological status of the athlete

Prevention of Basketball Injuries

Any basketball coach running a mentored youth basketball program is aware that the right training plays a major role in reducing the risk of injury during both practice and competition. Muscle strengthening and balance are helpful in achieving this. The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons (AAOS) suggests that injury prevention should start long before a basketball player steps onto the court. The following steps can help in realizing this goal.

Check Your Exercise or Play Environment

A safe environment is a must. Ensure this by:

  • Making sure that when exercising outside the court is level and free of any obstacles and protrusions or holes. Enclosed courts should be clean and hygienic as well as well ventilated. Good traction is vital for all playgrounds.
  • Avoiding exercising or playing in extreme weather conditions.
  • Avoiding poorly-lit courts.
  • Playing in courts where walls surrounding the court are far enough from the court’s boundary and are also padded in case of inadvertently hitting the wall.


The wrong or inappropriate equipment can increase your risk of injury. Avoid this by:

  • Wearing fitting attire including well-fitting, non-skid shoes.
  • Using protective guards for your ankle, knees, and elbows.
  • Using a mouth gag.
  • Not wearing jewelry. This has the potential to cause injury to oneself and other players.
  • Wear eyeglass guards if you have to play with your glasses on.

The Preparation Stage

Once a basketball player it is recommended that you are in good shape at all times. This means during and off the basketball season. Common ways to keep fit include:

  • Warm-up before exercise or play. Cold and tense muscles are more prone to injury. Aerobic exercises are an effective way for warming up your body. Warm-up increases body temperature which leads to physiological benefits such as improved blood flow to the muscles, improved nerve speed conduction, and reduced muscle tension (viscosity).
  • Strength training
  • Gait and balance maintenance and improvement.
  • Keep your body well-hydrated before play. Avoid caffeinated drinks as these can promote diuresis and dehydration. Maintain hydration during exercise by taking hydration breaks every 20 minutes. Note that is also possible to over-hydrate.

Avoid Over-Exercising

As noted above, muscle fatigue is a risk factor in basketball injuries. Overuse injuries can be prevented by:

  • Avoiding playing in multiple teams.
  • Engaging in other games during the season. This helps to prevent overuse of only certain muscles and body structures which happens when playing only one game throughout.

Improve Your Playing Technique

Understanding and maintaining your position helps you to anticipate your opponent’s moves and from which sides they are likely to tackle you from. This may help to lower the risks of collisions and injury. Good footwork, passing, scoring and fair gameplay also helps.

Have a Well Thought-Out Line of Action in Case an Injury Happens

This particularly pertains to coaches. The way an injury is handled immediately after it occurs can have long-term implications in the outcome of future basketball injuries. For minor injuries and bruises, a coach should be knowledgeable enough to offer first aid and refer the player for further professional assessment if necessary.

A clear referral system and injury facility should be well-established for more serious injuries. The aim here is to prevent morbidity and extended post-injury recovery period.

Prevent Repeat Basketball Injuries

A poorly managed primary basketball injury increases the risk of another injury happening once the player resumes playing. To avoid this, the player must be in as fit condition as he was before the injury before resuming. Fractures should be completely healed, any joint injury should be fully recovered and pain-free, and any brain concussion or contusion should have fully resolved and the player cleared to resume play after a thorough professional neurological assessment.

While it is impossible to completely prevent basketball injuries, it is possible to reduce their risk of occurring, their severity, and post-injury recuperating period.




  • The Epidemiology of US High School Basketball Injuries, 2005–2007
  • Laurel A. Borowski, MPH, Ellen E. Yard, MPH, Sarah K. Fields, JD, PhD, R. Dawn Comstock, PhD
  • Olsen, O., Sjøhaug, M., van Beekvelt, M., & Mork, P. J. (2012). The Effect of Warm-Up and Cool-Down Exercise on Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness in the Quadriceps Muscle: a Randomized Controlled Trial. Journal of Human Kinetics, 35, 59–68.
  • Griffin, Letha Y. MD, PhD. Prevention of Noncontact ACL Injuries, American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons.

Other sources: