Top Five Injuries in Basketball

people playing basketball

Posted 6/16/2022

Basketball is one of the most popular sports in America, especially among kids and young adults.

From March Madness to the NBA finals, people love watching and playing basketball.

The love for playing the game doesn’t come without the risk of injury, though.

Whether played recreationally or in an organized league, injuries happen, even with the pros.

A big enough injury can keep you out of the game altogether, like James Wiseman of the Golden State Warriors. He hasn’t seen play in over a year due to a right knee injury.

Some injuries, like knee injuries, are more common than others. They typically involve the lower body.

Here we’ve ranked the five most common types in basketball:

Ankle sprains

Nearly half of all basketball-related injuries involve the ankle and foot. From “rolling” an ankle, to landing awkwardly, to getting stepped on, playing basketball leaves athletes open to injury.

A standard treatment for ankle injuries, specifically ankle sprains, often centers around a method remembered by the acronym RICE:

  • Rest
  • Ice
  • Compression
  • Elevation

Most injuries can be treated without a trip to the doctor’s office with this practice. But if you have the following symptoms, a trip to urgent care might be better:

  • Pain directly on top of the outside bone of your foot
  • Inability to walk a couple steps

Physical therapy could be helpful, too, depending on the severity of the sprain.

Typically, with the right rehab plan, an athlete can be back in their sport in two-to-six weeks.

Thigh bruises

Getting a knee to the thigh can be one of the worst pains for a basketball player.

Because of this, more athletes are wearing compression garments with thigh padding. If hit hard enough in the thigh by an opposing player, the muscle can tighten up and bruise.

Typically, an athlete can play through bruising. But some deep tissue massage by a licensed therapist is helpful to loosen up the muscle.

Treatments for a thigh bruise might include:

  • Massage
  • ICE: ice, compression and elevation

Knee injuries

If you watch or play basketball with any regularity, this one is not surprise.

The three biggies include:

  • Anterior cruciate ligament (ACL): ACL injuries are the most talked about of the knee injuries. The ACL is one of the bands of ligaments connecting the thigh bone to the shin bone at the knee.

    Injury can range from a tiny tear to a significant tear. A bad tear, separating from the bone, generally requires surgery and months of physical therapy for return to play.

    Go in-depth with our article on three ways to prevent ACL injury.
  • Meniscus: The meniscus is the little brother of the ACL. Every knee has two, and often they are injured along with the ACL.

    A meniscus is one of two rubber-like wedge-shaped cushions for each knee joint. Without them, the thigh bones would sit directly on top of the lower leg bones. Over time, this bone on bone condition causes pain as th bones rub together.

    Treatment for meniscus injuries depends on the level of injury. It can vary from ICE, which we talked about above, to surgery and physical therapy, to just physical therapy.
  • Patella tendon: Patella tendonitis –  jumper’s knee – is a result of inflammation of the patella tendon which connects your kneecap to your shin bone.

    Jumper’s knee can often be healed with customized exercise guided by a physical therapist. Here, too, the RICE method, with emphasis on the “R”, is quite effective.

Jammed fingers

Jammed fingers are exceptionally common (and painful!). They often occur when the finger, fully extended, hits the ball “head on” without bending.

Ouch!

This kind of finger jam can lead to immediate pain then swelling.

Although uncomfortable, this injury isn’t considered serious.

Jammed fingers typically heal without medical intervention or the need for a trip to the emergency room.

Buddy taping (taping the finger to the finger next to it) and icing can help you heal in as little as a week.

illustration showing buddy-taped fingers

But if pain or swelling persists, a consult with your doctor or a physical therapist can determine if there’s something else in play.

Concussion

Concussions make up about 15% of all sport-related injuries, not just basketball.

A concussion is a brain injury that occurs with a physical impact to the head or neck, like whiplash.

Most sports-related concussions can be managed by either an athletic trainer individual or in tandem with a physical therapist. Athletic trainers may also work in combination with a doctor and other health care professionals.

In basketball, a few examples of when concussion can occur:

  • An athlete hits their head on the hard gym floor
  • Head-to-head contact between two players
  • Head-to-elbow contact
  • Head-to-shoulder contact
  • Any collision involving the head

When concussion is diagnosed, the athlete is unable to return to play for a period of time. This can be a 5- or 7-day waiting period, or until the treating health professional gives approval.

Concussion recovery can go slowly if symptoms linger. When this occurs, supervision by the health care provider is key for successful healing.

Working with a licensed physical therapist can help with the recovery of nearly all of these injuries.

Think you may have one of these, or another type of sports injury? Click the blue Request An Appointment button to find a physical therapy center near you.

We offer complimentary consultations so you can get back on the court.

By: Wyneisha Mason, MAT, ATC. ‘Neisha is an athletic trainer with RUSH Physical Therapy in Chicago, Illinois.

RUSH and Physiotherapy Associates are part of the Select Medical Outpatient Division family of brands.