From the asphalt courts of Harlem to the high school gyms of Indiana, basketball is a way of life for millions of American teens. It may be fun to play and great exercise, but basketball is also a contact sport, and injuries happen a lot. Also, since basketball is played year-round, indoors and out, many players get repetitive stress injuries (RSIs) like tendonitis.
To help make sure you're doing everything you can to stay safe on the basketball court, follow these safety tips.
Fortunately, very few basketball injuries are life threatening. Some (like broken bones, concussions, and ligament tears) can be quite serious, though. And while playing through the pain might seem noble, it can lead to serious muscle and joint problems over time.
Sprained ankles are the most common basketball injuries, but jammed or broken fingers, bruises, bloody or broken noses, and poked eyes are all too common as well. When playing outdoors, abrasions (particularly to the palms and fingers) are always a risk.
Indoor ball presents its own hazards in the form of walls and bleachers, and players are bound to collide going after loose balls and rebounds wherever they play.
If you've got two people, a ball, and a basketball hoop, you've got just about everything you need for a basketball game. But this doesn't mean you don't need to pay attention to what you wear, especially on your feet.
Before you take the court, take steps to protect yourself by always wearing the following:
Since basketball can involve anywhere from two to 10 players, it can be played in small spaces as easily as giant arenas. Driveways, playgrounds, gyms, and barnyards are all potential courts and present basketball players with an ever-changing variety of surfaces.
Regardless of where you choose to play, you should always inspect the court before you start and make sure it is free of debris, particularly broken glass (ouch!) and loose gravel. The court surface should also be free of any cracks, holes, or irregularities that could lead to sprained or twisted ankles.
If you're going to play outside at night, be sure the court is well lit and in a safe area. Indoor courts should give you plenty of distance between the edges of the court and any walls, bleachers, or other obstacles. Basket stands and any walls near them should be well padded and properly secured. Store extra equipment like balls, gym bags, and other gear where they won't interfere with players going after loose balls.
As with many sports, basketball requires running, jumping, and other athletic movements. Staying in good shape year-round will not only make you better at these actions, it will help reduce your risk of injury and improve your stamina so you can play harder for longer periods of time. Be sure to get plenty of exercise before the season starts, and eat healthy foods.
Warm up and stretch before you start playing. This doesn't mean just shooting a few hoops or dribbling with both hands. Do some jumping jacks or run in place for a couple of minutes to warm up your muscles before stretching. Dynamic stretching uses many muscle groups in a sport-specific way, so ask your coach about stretches to add to your warm-up. It's a good idea to stretch after a game or practice, too.
Practice shooting, dribbling, layups, and running the court before you try to duplicate these maneuvers during a game. Knowing how to do what you want to do will make your movements less awkward and less prone to injury. And naturally, know the rules and how to play safely before you compete against other players.
Once the ball is put in play, things will start to move quickly on the court. Know where your teammates and any opponents are at all times. This will help you avoid potentially painful collisions.
Fouling other players will not only hurt your team and possibly land you a seat on the bench, it's also a very common source of injuries. Play within the rules, with no shoving, tripping, or holding, and always obey the officials. Never deliberately or flagrantly foul another player.
If you get tired during the course of a game, ask to come out for a while to catch your breath, and be sure to stay well hydrated. Heat-related illness and dehydration are risks, particularly on hot days or sunny, outdoor courts.
If you feel pain in any of your joints or muscles, stop playing right away. Don't resume playing until the pain goes away or you get clearance from a doctor.
Lastly, know where the ball is at all times. This may seem obvious, but many players get hurt by being hit with the ball when they aren't looking. Basketballs are hard enough to easily break a nose or a finger.
With summer AAU programs, school and church leagues, travel teams, camps, and all-star games to choose from, lots of guys and girls spend the whole year playing basketball. This can lead to more than just burnout. Strains and sprains, tendonitis, growth plate injuries, and stress fractures can get very painful and debilitating if untreated.
Always tell a coach or parent if you're feeling any pain, and never ignore any tweaks, spasms, or discomfort you feel while playing. Ignoring overuse injuries will only make them harder to recover from in the long run.
If you have any concerns that you're playing too much basketball, work with your parents and coaches to try to reduce your schedule.
Finally, get out there on the court and have fun working on your skills and leading your team to victory. With a little forethought and some common sense and etiquette, you can keep things safe and stay injury-free and in the game. Next thing you know, that'll be you hitting the shot at the buzzer to win the Final Four or the NBA championship.
Reviewed by: Mary L. Gavin, MD
Date reviewed: January 2014
|American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) The AAOS provides information for the public on sports safety, and bone, joint, muscle, ligament and tendon injuries or conditions.|
|American College of Sports Medicine This site has tips on staying safe while playing sports and exercising.|
|Jumper's Knee Jumper's knee is an inflammation or injury of the patellar tendon. Although it can seem minor, it's actually a serious condition that can get worse over time and ultimately require surgery if not treated.|
|Safety Tips: Sledding Sledding is a lot of fun, but can also cause injuries, some of them pretty serious. To keep yourself safe while sledding, follow these safety tips.|
|Dealing With Sports Injuries You practiced hard and made sure you wore protective gear, but you still got hurt. Read this article to find out how to take care of sports injuries - and how to avoid getting them.|
|Handling Sports Pressure and Competition Winning is all that matters when you play sports, right? Not when that means you can't even enjoy the game. Read about how to handle sports pressure and competition.|
|Safety Tips: Baseball Baseball is by no means a dangerous sport. But it can present a very real risk of injuries from things like wild pitches, batted balls, and collisions in the field.|
|Safety Tips: Skateboarding Skateboarding is undeniably cool, but it's also easy to get hurt. Keep it safe while skateboarding with these safety tips.|
|Safety Tips: Skiing There's a lot to love about skiing, but it can also present some very real dangers, from frostbite and sunburn to blown knees and head injuries. Follow these tips to stay safe on the slopes.|
|Safety Tips: Snowboarding Snowboarding is a great way to have fun, but it can also present some very real dangers. Follow these safety tips to learn how to stay safe on the slopes.|
|Sports and Exercise Safety Playing hard doesn't have to mean getting hurt. The best way to ensure a long and injury-free athletic career is to play it safe from the start. Find out how.|
|5 Ways to Prepare for Your Sports Season How can you get ready to play your best season ever? Read these tips for teen athletes.|
|Achilles Tendonitis If the tendon just above your heel becomes swollen or irritated due to overuse, it can lead to a painful condition called Achilles tendonitis. Find out how to treat it - and prevent it.|
What to expect when coming to Akron Children's
For healthcare providers and nurses
Residency & Fellowships, Medical Students, Nursing and Allied Health
For prospective employees and career-seekers
Our online community that provides inspirational stories and helpful information.