Why Do Basketballs Lose Air?

Basketball is a popular sport that involves passing and shooting balls through hoops for points.

While this may seem like an easy game to play, there can be issues when your ball begins to lose air pressure over time.

This causes several difficulties, as you’re unable to shoot with accuracy and have trouble running fast enough to keep up with the pace of gameplay.

But exactly why do basketballs deflate over time?


Basketballs lose air primarily because of valve leakages present within the inner lining of the ball or on its outer shell. These objects may also have air escape from them if their outer material is punctured by a sharp object; exposed to cold weather, or damaged due to improper usage when playing.

Want to learn more about these reasons?

Then read on!

Reasons why your basketball is deflating

Here are some common reasons why basketballs leak air and how you might be able to fix them.

1. Valve leakage

why basketballs lose air - valve leakage

A basketball’s valve allows air into its chambers so that when someone shoots at the hoop, they will get more power behind their shot.

When the valve leaks air, however, this makes it harder to generate energy from your shots because there isn’t as much room inside the chamber.

Basketball deflation can occur when air escapes from the valve, which can occur from time to time.

During games, basketballs are subjected to constant impacts from player movement, bounces, and collisions with the floor.

Consequently, the valve area experiences repeated stretching, twisting, bending, compressing, and tearing motions.

Because of the physicality of basketball play, the valve area then weakens over time, thereby leading to air escaping which makes the ball flatten up.

2. Cold weather

why basketballs lose air - cold weather

If you live in cold climates where temperatures drop below freezing, then your basketball could lose the air pressure that it needs to bounce normally.

You see, according to Gay-Lussac’s law on gas pressure and temperature, the pressure of a gas will increase with a given increase in temperature.

And the opposite happens with a reduction in temperature too.

Here’s a video which explains this concept more succinctly:

Therefore, a basketball will become under-inflated when its left in a cool environment, as the air molecules within the object slow down and don’t bump into each other as much within the basketball shell.

And if left untreated in extremely cold temperatures, your ball could eventually freeze completely, which would prevent any further use until it thaws out naturally.

3. Improper usage

When players put too much strain on their basketball by playing in an irresponsible manner, they damage the seams between the rubber.

As a result, small holes form near the seams, allowing air to escape from the valve and causing it to slowly deflate.

Over time, these tears grow larger until the entire valve no longer works correctly.

Some activities that could cause a basketball to lose air in this way involve:

  • Sitting on the basketball;
  • Standing on it; or
  • Bouncing it against an uneven surface.

4. Sharp objects

why basketballs lose air - exposure to sharp objects

Your basketball’s valve can rupture if something penetrates it, including anything from glass windows and metal nails to even a dog’s canine teeth!

To avoid this issue, you’ll want to ensure that the court surface you play on doesn’t have any small objects present on it that could potentially puncture its outer shell and cause the air to slowly seep out.

5. Exposure to sunlight

The sun has been known to bake basketball courts throughout history, leaving little shade for anyone playing outside.

The heat causes rubber components to break down faster than normal, resulting in cracks and other imperfections.

These blemishes allow moisture to seep through and evaporate quickly, leading to a loss of air pressure and ultimately a ballooning size.

You should avoid prolonged sunlight exposure for your basketball if you want it to last longer.

Is it normal for a basketball to lose air?


Basketballs generally lose small amounts of air pressure over the course of their product life expectancy.

That’s why you need to re-inflate them every now and again.

In fact, experts say that a basketball starts losing air prematurely during the first few months of ownership.

Which is why you should consider buying a new basketball each year to ensure that the one you own doesn’t develop any long-term problems.

You can usually tell whether your current basketball needs replacement after about two years, depending on your lifestyle, level of activity, and type of play.

For example, if you only go out for pickup games without competing against others, then you probably don’t need to replace your ball right away.

However, if you spend hours practicing on your driveway, your annual cost savings may offset the expense of purchasing a new basketball.

But what happens if your basketball does burst?

How to fix a basketball that won’t hold air

Read on to learn about some solutions to the problem of deflating basketballs.

Repairs with a toothpick

Unfortunately, sometimes basketballs just won’t hold air anymore.

Although professional centers often carry specialized equipment for repairing torn basketballs, many people now opt for do-it-yourself (DIY) solutions.

Some of these methods include using a toothpick, duct tape, glue, and superglue.

If the valve has been damaged to the point where it can’t stop air from seeping out of the ball, gently insert a toothpick into the hole and snip off the pointed end flush with the valve.

Make sure not to pierce the outer layer of skin while doing so.

Then, you could also try to reinforce the integrity of the valve by wrapping a tiny bit of duct tape over the edges of the ruptured area to seal it temporarily.

Gluing the ball back together

Another method uses superglue to patch up tiny holes found along the edge of the basketball.

Apply the superglue directly onto the affected areas and wait for it to dry thoroughly.

Next, apply another coat of superglue over the patched sections.

Let the second coat dry overnight, and finally wipe off excess adhesive residue using alcohol wipes.

Finally, let the repaired basketball sit for 24 hours to fully cure.

For large tears, you can fill in the gap between the inner tube and the outer shell with either hot wax, gum, or silicone caulk.

Using the appropriate substance depends largely upon the severity of the tear.

Hot wax can close minor gaps, whereas gum or caulking materials work best to plug bigger holes.

On occasion, you may need to cut patches of various adhesives and place them together to cover whole sections where necessary.

Concluding thoughts

As mentioned earlier…

Basketballs gradually lose air pressure over time partly due to factors beyond your control, such as a leaky valve opening, cold weather or from having its outer shell pierced by sharp objects.

With that said, basketballs lose less air volume when they’re manufactured according to industry standards compared to those produced by individual companies.

Manufacturers who comply with international standards take extra precautions to improve quality, reduce production costs, and increase efficiency.

Meanwhile, nonconforming products may suffer from poor design, inconsistent manufacturing processes, and excessive labour practices.

If you’re new to basketball and have enjoyed this read, you should also check out our article on what basketballs smell like, in order to get more acquainted with this specific piece of equipment.

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.