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Basketball Injuries Are Common, Usually Minor

Most Are Sprains, Strains, But Eye and Mouth Injuries, Concussions Also Occur

Basketball is a popular sport, especially among children and young adults. But like all sports, it carries a risk for injury, whether played in an organized league or with friends on a local park court:

  • More than 200,000 basketball-related injuries occur to young people under age 15 each year requiring treatment in hospital emergency departments.
  • Basketball is the fourth leading cause of injury in both unorganized settings and organized community team sports.
  • Injuries to basketball players are usually minor, mostly sprains and strains. The ankle and knee are the most common sites of injury, followed by the lower back, hand, and wrist.
  • Concussions, however, are not uncommon, especially in girls' high school basketball. A 2012 study[1] found that  high school girls' basketball had the sixth highest concussion rate  (21 per 100,000 athletic exposures, e.g. games and practices), behind only football (64), boys' ice hockey (54), boys' lacrosse (40), girls' lacrosse (35), and boys' soccer (22), a concussion rate higher than that for boys (16).  That same study also found that girls took longer than boys for post-concussion signs and symptoms to resolve and for them to return to play.  More than 20% of the concussions suffered by female high school basketball players were recurrent concussions.
  • Eye injuries are frequent, usually as a result of being hit with fingers or elbows. Along with baseball basketball is one of the leading causes of sports-related eye injuries in children. 
  • Along with baseball, basketball accounts for nearly half of all sports-related mouth injuries.
  • At the high school and recreational levels, injuries occur more frequently during practice; college players are injured more often during games.
  • Girls and women appear to have a slightly higher rate of injury than boys and men. And many of the injuries female players sustain are more serious than those of their male counterparts (e.g., knee injuries)
  • According to a study by the National Athletic Trainers Association, two players on every high school basketball team in the country, regardless of gender, are likely to be injured during a season.

Types of Injuries

Of injuries suffered by high school basketball players, the NATA study found that the most common were:
  • Sprains (a partial or complete tear of a ligaments around a joint -- wrist, finger, knee, ankle, toe)(44.6% boys, 44.2% girls),
  • General trauma (26.5% boys; 19.6% girls)
  • Strains (a partial or complete tear of a muscles or tendons) (13.3% boys, 16.2% girls)

1. Marar M, McIlvain NM, Fields SK, Comstock RD. Epidemiology of Concussions Among United States High School Athletes in 20 Sports. Am J Sports Med 2012;40:747-755.

Updated September 5, 2013