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Youth Basketball: Injury Prevention Tips

Each year, more than 1.6 million basketball-related injuries are treated in hospitals, doctors’ offices, clinics, ambulatory surgery centers and hospital emergency rooms. 

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.

Here are tips to help prevent basketball injuries:

  • Make sure players take time to warm up and stretch. Research studies have shown that cold muscles are more prone to injury. Aerobic and dynamic stretching help reduce injury risk. Players should warm up with jumping jacks, stationary cycling or running or walking in place for 3 to 5 minutes. Then they should slowly and gently stretch, holding each stretch for 30 seconds. 
  • Players should only play their position and know where other players are on the court to reduce the chance of collisions.  They should use proper techniques for passing and scoring.
  • Players need to practice good sportsmanship and follow the rules: They should not  hold, block, push, charge, or trip opponents.  
  • Players need to wear basketball shoes that fit snugly, offer support, and are non-skid. Cotton socks can absorb perspiration and also give added support to the foot. Ankle supports may reduce the incidence of ankle sprains (the most common injury at the high school level overall, with boy's and girl's basketball having the highest injury rates), although studies of the effectivness of ankle braces in reducing injuries are inconclusive.[1] 
  • Protective knee and elbow pads will protect players from bruises and abrasions. 
  • Players should wear mouth guards to protect their teeth and mouth. 
  • Players who wear glasses should wear safety glasses or glass guards protect their eyes,  
  • No wearing of  jewelry or chewing gum during practice or games. 
  • Make sure the court is safe.  Courts are an overlooked safety hazard.
    • Outdoor courts should be free of rocks, holes, and other hazards. 
    • When playing outside, take environmental conditions into account. Players should avoid playing in extreme weather or on courts that are not properly lighted in the evening. 
    • Inside courts should be clean, free of debris, and have good traction. 
    • Baskets and boundary lines should not be too close to walls, bleachers, water fountains, or other structures. 
    • Goalposts, as well as the walls behind them, should be padded. 
  • First aid knowledge and a kit are a must: Coaches need to be knowledgeable about, or have specific training in, first aid, have a well-stocked first aid kit at courtside, and be able to administer first aid for minor injuries, such as facial cuts, bruises, or minor tendinitis, strains, or sprains
  • Have an emergency plan in place: Be prepared for emergency situations and have a plan to reach EMS (e.g. calling 911) to treat injuries such as concussions, dislocations, elbow contusions, wrist or finger sprains, knee injuries, and fractures.

1.  Swenson D, Collins C, Fields S, Comstock R. Epidemiology of US High School Sports-Related Ligamentous Ankle Injuries, 2005/06-2010-11. Clin J Sport Med 2013;23(3):190-196.

Revised and updated November 20, 2013