Preventing common basketball injuries

St. Elizabeth Healthcare looks at winter high school sports and what athletes, coaches and parents should know to stay healthy and optimize performance. Today: basketball


Key dates:


  • Competition started week beginning Nov. 28
  • District tournaments start week beginning Feb. 19
  • Region tournaments start week beginning Feb. 26
  • State tournament week beginning March 6 (girls), week beginning March 13 (boys).


  • Season began Nov. 25 (girls) or Dec. 1 (boys)
  • Postseason begins Feb. 13 (girls), Feb. 20 (boys)
  • Regional tournament March 6-11 (girls), March 13-18 (boys)
  • State tournament March 16-18 (girls), March 23-25 (boys).


Common injuries:

According to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, the most common injuries in high school basketball include ankle sprains, stress fractures of the feet and lower legs, knee injuries and jammed fingers. The repetitive pounding on gym floors can be traumatic to feet and lower legs. Patellar tendinitis, aka “jumper’s knee,” is a common condition in basketball, as it is in volleyball, due to the repetitive stress involved in jumping and landing. Injuries to knee ligaments, whether sprains or tears, are also concerns in basketball with all the rapid cutting involved. Ligament tears are a particular concern with female athletes because studies show physiological differences may make them more susceptible to such knee trauma, said Kathy Boehmer, physical therapist with St. Elizabeth Sports Medicine.


Prevention and cure:

Any basketball player who’s ever taken off in the lane, only to return to earth on the foot of another player, can tell you that sometimes sprained ankles, and chip fractures, can be difficult to avoid. But you can help your cause by making sure your basketball shoes are the high-top type, offering functional support, and that they fit well and have good tread on the soles. Additional support can be found from ankle braces, available in a variety of styles, from lightweight sleeves to lace-up, reinforced supports. That’s particularly important for players who have had previous ankle sprains, because they are at increased risk.

Jumper’s knee can be countered by building strength and flexibility in the quadriceps. Knee bands or sleeves can be of some help, as can proper warm-ups and cool-downs. St. Elizabeth Sports Medicine also offers analysis of athletes’ jumping motions than can try to head off trouble before it occurs (more on that in a story next month).

As far as treatment, the RICE protocol is generally used for ankle or knee sprains: rest (suspending activity until the injury improves); ice (as soon as possible after the injury, then for up to 20 minutes three or more times daily); compression (wrapping the injured area can reduce swelling) and elevation (keeping the injured area above or at the level of your heart also can reduce swelling). Over-the-counter medications like acetaminophen, ibuprofen or naproxen sodium can help with pain and inflammation.


basketball injuries