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Youth Basketball Injuries

Joe Fleming provides an overview of some of the common injuries experienced by youth basketball players along with strategies to address and prevent them.

When Dr James Naismith invented basketball in 1891 by suspending a peach basket at either end of a floor and challenging participants to toss a soccer ball into said baskets, the game was very slow-paced. Furthermore, almost any physical contact between players, even if it was unintentional, was illegal.

Today's basketball games bear a minimal resemblance to those early contests, except for the game's name and court configuration. Modern players often race up and down the court at breakneck speed. Furthermore, almost all physical contact, unless it involves striking or tripping another player, is legal.

As a result, today's basketball games are fertile ground for youth sports injuries. According to one estimate, 200,000 basketball players under 15 receive treatment in hospital emergency rooms after they sustain a sports injury. Breaking it down, on a typical high school basketball team, at least two players are too injured to participate at any given time. Rather disturbingly, injuries are just as likely to occur in the relatively controlled environment of practice as they are in the competitive environment of a game. But the news is not all bad, as the injury rate had declined over 30% since a previous study conducted during the mid-1980s.

Ankle Sprains

The R.I.C.E. method is the best way to address most muscle injuries, including ankle sprains. Caregivers should ensure that their injured superstars begin this recovery process as soon as possible after an ankle sprain.

  1. Rest: Stay off the ankle entirely and use crutches to move around. About halfway through the recovery period (more on that below), it is probably a good idea to begin some light range-of-motion exercises.
  2. Ice: Opinions vary as to cold therapy's effectiveness, but almost everyone agrees that twenty minutes of ice several times a day helps reduce swelling and relieve discomfort. If your child uses a commercial ice pack, make sure that it stays well below room temperature for the entire session.
  3. Compression: A tightly-wrapped Ace bandage reduces inflammation and also supports the ankle while the ligaments heal. A specially-designed compression ankle wrap is even better because it is specifically tailored for that muscle group.
  4. Elevation: For the most part, keep the area elevated above the heart. But do not get too carried away, because constant and uninterrupted elevation restricts blood flow, and that restriction impedes healing.

Rest is about the only known cure for ankle sprains. Mild Grade I injuries usually heal in two to four weeks, while more severe Grade II sprains may take between six and eight weeks. Never allow a child to resume playing until the injury is completely healed. That means zero swelling, zero pain, and 100% range of motion.

In terms of prevention, an under-sock ankle wrap is usually a good idea. A thin one is very comfortable and may provide just enough protection to safely allow a little extra stretch when it is needed most.

Face Injuries

Some people are somewhat surprised that basketball causes about a third of the sports-related eye injuries among children and teenagers, making these wounds much more common than ankle sprains or knee injuries. An elbow during a contested shot or rebound or a finger in the eye causes most such injuries. Elbows are also responsible for most basketball-related mouth injuries. Basketball and the other b-ball (baseball) account for half of such wounds.

Scratches and other trauma injuries usually heal on their own after a few days. During this period, make sure your child wears sunglasses at all times and allows nothing to come into contact with the eye. That includes contact lenses.

In some cases, a scratch may cause a corneal abrasion. Symptoms include blurred vision, sensitivity to light, and persistent pain. If these symptoms occur, especially if they linger after the injury should have healed, consult an optometrist straight-away, because this condition could permanently impair vision if not properly treated.

Protective eyewear prevents 90% of eye injuries. Fashion-conscious and/or testosterone-infused teens may balk at wearing goggles, so caregivers should know when to choose their battles and also know when to lay down the law (e.g. if you do not wear goggles you will not play).

Knee Injuries

Jumping, as well as sudden stopping, places pressure on the knee's ligaments. A trauma injury, such as a fall or a sudden blow, might also cause such a wound.

Most of these injuries are MCL (medial collateral ligament) sprains or tears. The MCL is on the inside of the knee joint, and it stabilizes the area. Use the R.I.C.E. above method to treat the injury. MCL tears usually heal in a few days; MCL strains may require a few weeks. Again, be sure the injury is completely healed because re-injuring an injured knee is a serious matter.

ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) injuries affect the ligaments on the inside of the knee, which prevent the bones from sliding together, so it is a much more severe injury. Recovery usually involves surgery, extensive physical therapy, or both. A trainer or doctor can diagnose the difference between an MCL and an ACL injury. The athlete might know as well because ACL injuries feature a "popping" noise.

Several quality knee braces are designed just for basketball, so they do not interfere with jumping and other motions. To get an idea of the different available ones, visit this URL.

Basketball injuries are quite common, but fortunately, most of them are not very serious and are relatively easy to prevent. With a little forethought, your future All-Star can most likely make it through the season unscathed.

Page Reference

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  • FLEMING, J. (2017) Youth Basketball Injuries [WWW] Available from: [Accessed

About the Author

Joe Fleming is the President at Interested in all things related to living a healthy lifestyle, he enjoys sharing and expressing his passion through writing. Working to motivate others and defeat ageing stereotypes, Joe uses his writing to help all people overcome the obstacles of life. Covering topics that range from physical health, wellness, and ageing to social, news, and inspirational pieces. The goal is to help others "rebel against age".