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Basketball Injury Prevention & Rehabilitation Guide

2nd September 2022

Basketball is a sport where two separate teams compete with the objective of shooting a ball into a hoop. The court is rectangular, and on each side there is a hoop suspended in the air. Players move the ball up the court by bouncing it whilst walking or running. They then score two points for shooting the ball into the hoop, or three points if they successfully shoot it from behind the three-point line.

There are also 5 players at a time on a basketball court, with around 7 to 10 sitting on the bench in case there needs to be a replacement, due to tactics; injury; or misbehavior on the court.

It is important to understand the potential injury risks you may experience when playing basketball. Several studies have shown that some of these injuries are due to either playing aggressively and / or experiencing accidents such as falls or a fracture.

This article will explain some of the most common causes associated with the sport, the best ways to avoid and prevent injuries, recommended exercises you can perform whether at home or before engaging in the activity, and a set of treatments that may reduce symptoms such as pain, swelling, and inflammation.


Common Basketball Injuries

There are many common basketball injuries that can lead a player to be forced to sideline for an entire season. Understanding the cause of these injuries is key to deploying the most effective treatment methods at the first sign of any type of basketball injury. Here are some common causes linked to the sport:

Anterior cruciate ligament tear (ACL tear)

An ACL tear is a tear in a ligament in the knee. This injury is caused usually by an intense, sudden blow to the knee. This injury is particularly known in basketball because players are jumping to grab possession of the ball, and landing on the hardwood.

Hamstring strain

Hamstring strains are caused by a tear or pull in the three muscles of the hamstring, and it occurs often in activities involving sprinting and sudden stopping movements, such as basketball. Furthermore, these players mainly run on hardwood floors, which adds to the impact and exertion on the player’s hamstrings.

Stress fractures

Stress fractures occur when the muscles in the foot are too tired or overused to absorb the impact and stress of running, jumping, stopping, and sprinting, leaving the bones vulnerable to small cracks. These are often considered overuse injuries, but they can also be caused by poor fitting or improper footwear and playing too quickly after injury.

Finger sprains

It is generally very important for players to handle the ball correctly; most players accidentally injure their fingers on the ball. This blunt force from the basketball specifically causes an injury to the proximal interphalangeal joint, also known as PIP. Finger sprains are more commonly known in the basketball community as a “jammed finger”.

Contusion (bruise)

A contusion is a medical term for bruising. Many basketball players are bruised from falling from a high jump, whether that is missing the rim or being blocked by an opponent in the air.

Broken Nose

A broken nose is a break or crack in the bone over the bridge of the nose. It is also called a nasal fracture, and they cause swelling and bruising around the nose and under the eyes, as well as pain. This injury is common among basketball players because this sport is a physically, aggressive sport, with hands and arms wavering around constantly. Oftentimes when this injury occurs, the players are near the net, either trying to defend the net or to score the ball and in very close quarters to one another.

Facial cuts

Facial cuts are a common injury that basketball players suffer from time to time on the court. Athletes can get facial cuts when one or more opponents are very close to him or her and the ball is above all the players’ heads, causing arms and hands to be reaching above. When the arms drop, they may come in contact with another athlete’s face on accident, and due to the force and angle of the arms dropping, may cause someone to be cut or elbowed.


How Can Basketball Injuries be Prevented?

The fast-paced action of basketball can cause a wide range of injuries, most often to the foot, ankle, and knee. Fortunately, several strategies can help to prevent basketball injuries – from careful inspection of the play area to using proper passing techniques. Below is a prevention guide that will be helpful during your basketball game:

Stay Hydrated

Even mild levels of dehydration can affect your overall athletic performance. If you have not had enough fluids, your body will not be able to effectively cool itself through sweat and evaporation. A great recommendation is to drink at least 24 ounces of non-caffeinated beverages 2 hours before performing any activity. Drinking an additional 8 ounces of water or a sports drink right before exercise is also helpful.

Warm Up Before Playing

Take the time to warm up and stretch. Studies have shown that cold muscles are much more prone to injury. Warm up with stretches, stationary cycling, or walking in place for 3-5 minutes.

Cool Down After Playing

Stretching at the end of practice, and following a game, helps to reduce soreness and keeps the muscles long and flexible.

Maintain a Good Fitness Routine

Be sure that you are in good physical condition at the beginning of basketball season. During the off-season, stick to a balanced fitness program that incorporates aerobic exercise, strength training, and flexibility.


Resting is one of the most important things that every athlete must do before and after a sporting event, such as basketball. Prior to training or a big game, you should make a point of getting a proper amount of sleep the night before.

Ensure a Safe Environment

Before playing the activity, the court should be dry and free of holes and debris that can cause an injury. Also, if you are playing basketball outdoors, avoid playing in extreme weather including storms, high temperatures, or intense cold. Finally, ensure quality first-aid support is available including trained personnel, first-aid kits, and ice packs.

Good Nutrition

It is always recommended to eat during the day before games. There is a 100% chance that you will sweat intensely during a game of basketball. This can cause muscle cramps due to a lack of salt in your body. This can be severe if you do not eat anything salty all day but continue to drink water. Avoid this by eating regularly and drinking water only when you are feeling thirsty.


Best Exercises to Prevent Basketball Injuries

Exercising and stretching are one of the most under-utilized techniques for improving your athletic performance, preventing sports injury, and properly rehabilitating sprain and / or other injuries. Some of the best exercises to prevent basketball injuries include:

Quadriceps stretch

Lift one leg and grab your foot, pulling your heel to your hip until you feel a good stretch in your quad. Next, lean your torso forward as parallel to the floor as you can. Return to an upright position and take 3 steps forward. Repeat this method with the opposite leg 10 times.

Heel-drop and Achilles stretch

Stand on a raised object and place the ball of the foot on the edge of the step. Bend your knee slightly and let your heel drop towards the ground. Repeat this method 3-4 times.

Rotating stomach and side stretch

Lie face down and bring your hands close to your shoulders. Keep your hips on the ground, look forward and rise upwards by straightening your arms. Finally, slowly bend one arm and rotate that shoulder towards the ground. Repeat this exercise 3-4 times.

Standing calf stretch

Stand about a foot from a fall, facing toward it. Then, extend your right leg behind you with both feet flat on the floor and a straight right knee. Lean toward the wall to feel a sudden stretch in the calf muscle of your right leg. Finally, hold for 20 to 30 seconds before repeating on the left leg.

Squatting groin and adductor stretch

Stand with your feet wide apart. Keep one leg straight and your toes pointing forward while bending the other leg and turning your toes out to the side. Lower your groin towards the ground and rest your hands on your bent knee or the ground. Repeat this stretch 3-4 times.

Triceps Stretch

Stand straight up and grab your right elbow with your left hand, lifting it over your head. Keep your elbow in flexion and hold it for 15 seconds before repeating 5 times.


How To Treat Basketball Injuries

Applying certain treatments due to a basketball injury can help reduce mild symptoms caused by the injury. Therefore, treatment approaches for basketball injuries will vary depending on the type and severity of the issue:

Buddy taping

Minor swelling of a joint such as a jammed finger may be treated by “buddy taping” the injured finger to an adjacent finger to protect it during play. However, if pain and swelling persist, a thorough diagnosis may be needed.

RICE Principle

Minor injuries can be treated and improved by using the RICE method, which stands for Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation. While ice can help reduce inflammation and pain, compression will support the joint and rest gives the injured area time to heal. If possible, elevate the affected joint above the heart.

Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs)

Anti-inflammatory medications such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen can help lessen injury-related pain and will also reduce swelling and inflammation.


Physiotherapy Treatment for Basketball Injuries

There are several other ways to treat yourself from a basketball injury, however, you can also choose physiotherapy to further recover if pain persists. Physiotherapists help patients understand their condition and its complications, provide treatments to reduce pain and improve movement, and offer education about living a healthy lifestyle. Therefore, your physiotherapist will be able to design a specialized treatment program specific to your condition and goals. Some of these treatment plans include:

Manual therapy

Manual therapy consists of specific, hands-on techniques that may be used to manipulate or mobilize joints and muscles. Manual therapy is often used in conjunction with other activities to increase movement and has been shown to reduce pain.

Movement and exercise

Moving more and exercising can often be a great strategy to lessen pain. Studies have shown that those who exercise on a regular basis experience less pain. Your physiotherapist will help identify specific movements that will help reduce your symptoms.


Your physiotherapist will be able to determine whether the use of modalities such as ice, heat, or electrical stimulation applied to specific areas will benefit your condition.

Supporting Equipment

Walkers, canes, crutches, splints, and shoe inserts may be recommended to help take pressure off certain injured joints depending on the severity of the condition, such as a fractured bone. Understanding when and how to use these assistive devices can help decrease the risk of injury. Your physiotherapist can teach you how to properly fit and use certain assistive devices while also fostering an environment for you to work toward your functional independence.

Increase your activity levels

During your physiotherapy session, your therapist will discuss activity goals with you. He or she will design an exercise program to address your specific needs and goals. Your physiotherapist will help you reach those goals in the safest, fastest, and most effective way possible.

Home Program

After your session, your physiotherapist will help you develop a home program that is individualized to your specific needs and requirements.

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