Why Does Basketball Have the Most Injuries?

There is no question that basketball has one of the highest incidences of injuries among all sports.

The average number of total injuries per player was reported to be about 10 to 15% during a season according recent studies (Lang et al., 2012).

This high rate of injury makes it hard for professional athletes to play regularly without missing some time on the court or with pain.

In addition to this, more recent injury data compiled from 2019 shows that basketball has the greatest number of total injuries – coming in with a staggeringly high tally of 403,908.

That’s higher than the injury incidence levels in other sports like soccer, baseball and American football.

And to make matters worse, many amateur players have an even higher risk than professionals because they lack proper training methods.

So why does basketball have such a high percentage of injuries compared to other popular team sports like football and soccer?

Basketball has the most injuries of any professional sport, because the fast-paced game involves regular changes in lateral and vertical direction; frequent body pivoting; intense running and high jumping on the court, all activities which either stress joints significantly or over-extend muscles and ligaments.

Read on to learn more!

What are the causes of injuries in basketball?

Here’s a breakdown of what causes these injuries:

1. Quick changes in lateral direction

why basketball has the most injuries- quick changes in lateral direction

The main reason behind this type of injury is when you don’t prepare yourself properly before a game.

Many people believe that there will not be any sudden movements in basketball so they do not worry about their flexibility.

However, as soon as the ball comes into your hands from the center of the court, you need quick response skills to react quickly to avoid being knocked off balance by fast changing directions in the middle lane due to opponent’s passes or shots.

These sudden directional changes may cause ankle sprains or knee injuries if you aren’t prepared to handle them correctly.

If you’re not flexible enough to adjust your posture and position properly for each specific movement while dribbling, then you can definitely suffer from a serious injury later.

To prevent falling victim to this kind of injury, start practicing yoga at home to improve your flexibility and agility.

You should also stretch out your calves, ankles, shins, quadriceps, hamstrings, hips, low back, knees, and shoulders every day before practice sessions.

Doing so will help keep your joints healthy and reduce chances of getting injured.

You must remember though that stretching alone won’t provide full protection against joint injuries, but only give temporary relief until you rest.

Stretching helps loosen tight muscle tissues, which is good for preventing cramps, but isn’t sufficient to build core strength and stability.

For more permanent improvement of overall fitness level, you’ll want to focus on improving flexibility and coordination through dynamic exercises like Pilates, Yoga, Tai Chi, Qi Gong, etc. to strengthen your entire system instead of just individual parts.

2. Frequent body pivots

why basketball has the most injuries - frequent body pivots

Another major culprit leading to severe injuries is excessive pivoting motions made by both offensive and defensive players.

Players who pivot too much tend to move their upper bodies violently without keeping their feet planted firmly on the ground.

They may end up twisting their lower backs excessively.

Pivot motion becomes dangerous when done repeatedly without taking breaks between plays.

A lot of times, pivoting motions occur unintentionally because players try to reach for balls away from them.

But the problem gets worse when you turn around suddenly to block someone else’s shot, causing unnecessary stress on your spine.

There are lots of ways to minimize risks of injuring your back while playing basketball.

One way is to use a chest protector to protect your ribs.

Another option is wearing a protective cup under your jersey to absorb impact better.

Also, using the correct technique of blocking someone’s shot could save you from suffering from back sprain or dislocation.

When you come across a situation where you need to perform a blocked shot, take a short step towards your target first then lean forward slightly to brace your torso and arms.

After that, you can extend your leg further to stop the ball.

Finally, bend your waist backwards smoothly to maintain alignment throughout the whole process. It is important to note that you shouldn’t twist your body sharply to change lanes since doing so might lead to a herniated disc or spinal cord injury.

3. Intense running up and down the court

why basketball has the most injuries - intense running on court

Running distances longer than 100 yards continuously for long periods may cause fatigue and exhaustion.

Your legs become tired after several minutes of sprinting repeatedly.

As a result, your physical condition deteriorates gradually.

With improper nutrition intake, dehydration occurs easily.

Due to fatigue caused by vigorous exercise, you may lose your sense of judgment on the field.

Therefore, it’s advisable to spend less time running up and down the court and increase the intensity of shorter runs.

Besides helping your body recover faster, it provides more opportunities for you to receive open layups or easy baskets rather than trying to break tackles near the basket to dunk.

By increasing the speed of dribbling, you can create more space for teammates to pass to.

Since most teams usually run back and forth along the side-lines, you can utilize this opportunity to shoot jumpers and layups along the boards.

Keep in mind that you cannot afford to rush things unnecessarily.

Always pay attention to your form and always stay focused on making great moves and not worrying about distance travelled.

4. High jumps that over-extend muscles and ligaments

why basketball has the most injuries - high jumping

People who participate in basketball competitions frequently experience jumping injuries.

Jumps performed by players are mostly related to height requirements for different positions.

Because taller players generally require greater vertical leaps, they put themselves at increased risk of landing awkwardly from awkward perspectives.

Taller guys who play power forwards usually jump extremely high to beat defenders for rebounds.

Unfortunately, this style of play leads to frequent ankle sprains on top of already vulnerable bones.

On the contrary, smaller players who play shooting guards typically rely heavily on mid-range jumping to score points.

Although their skill set requires minimal vertical leap, their tendency to launch shots directly at opponents’ head puts them at greater risk of concussions and brain trauma.

Mid-sized point guard players usually possess medium stature, yet need to be able to jump tall for defensive purposes.

Their small frames and relatively weak musculature mean limited potential to generate momentum for horizontal propulsion.

Hence, they fall victim to acute hamstring pulls and groin strains when attempting to go up for difficult shots.

One effective solution to overcome these kinds of problems would be to wear well-fitted compression gear to protect your limbs and joints.

Compression shorts are specifically designed to stabilize your joints and muscles and limit damage resulting from repetitive stresses.

Proper warmup routines prior to a competition can significantly decrease the chance of injury.

During games, warming up slowly with light jogging and drills can help develop the necessary amount of energy needed to complete tough tasks.

Lastly, never forget to hydrate!

Water keeps our nerves alert and reduces lactic acid build-up in the blood stream.

Without water, we wouldn’t be able to produce the force needed to effectively propel ourselves forward.

Dehydration is one of the biggest factors that contribute to athletic performance decline.

We recommend drinking plenty of fluids during competition days, especially right before performing strenuous activities.

5.  Body collisions with other players

why basketball has the most injuries - regular body collisions

It seems impossible to imagine how anyone could sustain life-threatening injuries from simple contact with another person.

Yet, this happens very often on basketball courts.

Despite the fact that players understand the rules of the game, sometimes they still choose to ignore them to win a match.

Other times, referees fail to enforce certain violations committed by opposing players, allowing violent behavior to continue unchecked.

At such moments, players collide with each other accidentally.

Some players hit others in retaliation when provoked or simply out of frustration.

Colliding with other players can happen when you are defending or attacking.

While defending, you may bump into other players who are coming towards you unexpectedly.

Likewise, when driving to the hoop, you may collide with players in front of the goal post.

Such accidents are likely to happen when players compete aggressively for rebound, steal a ball, or defend their own net.

Moreover, body collision also takes place when two players attempt to deflect a ball simultaneously.

All of those situations involve forceful contacts between players, which can potentially injure unprotected soft tissue surrounding bony structures.

What are the most common injuries in basketball?

Naturally, you’d want to know what injuries basketball players suffer the most.

This is especially if you’re looking to get involved in the game, as you may want to weigh up the risks of playing the sport.

Well, because basketball is a contact sport, the bad news is that you’re bound to pick up a knock or two every now and again.

Let’s now look at which areas of the body get hurt the most when playing basketball.

Foot and ankle injuries

Because basketball involves jumping on a regular basis, you can expect player’s feet and ankles to come under significant strain.

This is particularly due to unstable landings which can happen in the immediate aftermath of a jump.

Your foot may encounter off-balance contact with the surface upon landing, which could cause it to turn or twist in an unnatural way that causes injury.

In fact, injuries to the lower extremities of the body were the most prevalent in basketball according to a report by the National Athletic Trainer’s Association.

Ankle injuries also come in a number of different forms, as there are sprains, dislocations and even fractures that can happen when playing the sport.

Hip and leg injuries

Hip strains and bruises can happen due to over-extending muscles and ligaments whilst on the court as a result of pivoting, running, jumping and rebounding during games.

We’re talking about pulled hamstrings, contusions, shin splints and groin strains brought about by repetitive twisting and turning motions made when playing.

Knee injuries

Moving up, down, left and right on the court places lots of stress on various joints in the body.

The knees tend to bear a lot of the brunt in basketball, as they bend and extend for low lunges and high jumps respectively.

What happens is that the tendons and ligaments sometimes can’t deal with all the pressure and in the process of play, they tear apart.

That’s why you’ll hear about professional players picking up anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) or medial collateral ligament (MCL) injuries that leave them out of action for several months.

One example of this happened when the Golden State Warriors guard Klay Thompson suffered an ACL injury in Game 6 of the 2019 NBA finals.

Jammed fingers

The basketball itself is the major contributing factor here.

Picture yourself receiving a pass from a teammate.

Naturally, you’d expect them to exert a good amount of force when throwing it in your direction, as they wouldn’t want an opponent to make an interception.

Just catching that basketball a little bit off-kilter opens you up to having your fingertips hurt, which could ultimately jam your fingers together.

How do you prevent injuries in basketball?

In order to avoid getting injured from bodily impacts, you should follow basic safety guidelines listed below.

  • Establish safe zones within the court area by setting boundaries to delineate areas of acceptable personal space;
  • Learn about the proper techniques for blocking incoming balls;
  • Recognize the possible dangers posed by unexpected contact with other players;
  • Wear appropriate footwear with adequate traction capabilities;
  • Incorporate proper warmup and cooldown protocols to aid recovery following activity;
  • Train extensively to ensure smooth transition from offense to defense;
  • Always remain aware of your surroundings and always consider your options carefully before reacting to threats;
  • Never assume that you know everything about the sport. Read books, listen to podcasts, view YouTube videos, attend clinics, and read magazines to enhance your knowledge base;
  • Consult a physician before participating in intense workouts; and finally
  • Always respect the rules of the game and obey the match officials at all times.

Final thoughts

This article has thoroughly covered why basketball has the most injuries when compared against other professional sports.

It’s also talked about which body parts get hurt the most due to the rigours of the game.

If you’ve enjoyed this piece, then you’d likely enjoy our articles on why basketball is so popular as well as why basketball is fun to play.

Happy reading!

About Samuel Waihenya

Samuel is an avid fan of basketball and has been following the sport for over 10 years. He now intends to dedicate his time to produce great content for his own little basketball blog that aims to help its readership with whatever basketball-related topic they can think of. Have a read through Samuel Waihenya's author bio page here.