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Top 5 Most Common Injuries in Basketball

A man in grey shorts and a red shirt dribbles a basketball.

Basketball is one of the country’s most played, high-impact sports. As a result, some common injuries in basketball can occur, especially in the knees and ankles. Explore the most common causes of basketball injuries and how a sports medicine specialist can help you get back on the court in no time.

Sprained Ankles
Easily the most common injury in basketball is sprained ankles. Shooting hoops means a lot of running and jumping. If a player lands awkwardly on their foot, the ankle can roll, turning beyond its range of motion. When this happens, the ligaments that hold your ankle together can stretch or tear, causing injury.  

Symptoms of a sprained (or twisted) ankle include pain, swelling, bruising, limited movement, and the inability to put weight on it.  

The best way to prevent a sprained ankle is to wear proper footwear, stretch, and warm-up before a game. Treatment for a sprained ankle involves following the R.I.C.E. method for two to three days. That’s rest, icing the ankle, compression, and elevation. In some rare cases, an arthroscopy may be required. This is a surgical procedure where a tiny camera is inserted into the ankle so that a sports medicine specialist can remove any bone, cartilage, or ligament fragments 

Broken or Jammed Fingers 
Basketball is a team sport, and like most team sports, that means a lot of passing the ball back and forth. With so much going on during a game, it’s very easy to misjudge the trajectory of a ball coming your way. If the ball hits the tip of the finger, the impact can lead to pain, swelling, stiffness, and difficulty grasping objects. 

It’s a good idea to see a sports medicine specialist to gauge the severity of the injury. In many cases, a doctor will place the finger in a splint. They may also suggest rest, icing, compression, and elevation to heal the finger properly.  

Torn Ligaments in the Knee 
Jumping and running put a lot of stress on the knees. Three common ligaments within the knee are prone to injury during a vigorous basketball game: anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), meniscus, and patella tendons. Symptoms in any of these torn ligaments include:  

  • Acute or sharp pain 
  • Swelling 
  • Popping sounds in the knee 
  • The inability to put weight on your leg 

ACL tears are the most well-known, as this group of ligaments often require specialized treatment and reconstructive surgery to correct. The meniscus is the second most concerning injury, as treatment can range from icing to physical therapy. In some cases, arthroscopic meniscus surgery will be needed where a doctor uses a small camera to repair any torn cartilage. Finally, patella tendonitis (aka, Jumper’s Knee) is a very common injury in basketball but often only requires rest and icing to heal.  

Calf Muscle Strain 
Another common injury in basketball is a calf muscle strain, which occurs with sudden acceleration, jumping, and high-speed running. Most acute calf strains often involve sudden pain in the posterior lower leg, as well as a popping or pulling sensation. This type of injury can be categorized into three phases:   

  • Grade 1. The muscle is stretched, which causes small micro-tears in the muscle fibers. 
  • Grade 2. There is a partial tearing of muscle fibers. 
  • Grade 3. This is the most severe calf strain, with complete tearing or rupture of the muscle fibers in the lower leg. 

The time it takes to return to the court is influenced by the strain’s location and grade. An MRI or ultrasound imaging can be used to determine the grade and location of the injury. Your sports medicine specialist will then be able to decide on the ideal course of treatment. 

Typically, a muscle strain may require several weeks of rest, immobilization, and physical therapy. In the case of a complete muscle tear or rupture, surgery may be needed to repair the tissue. 

In some cases, players mistake a calf muscle strain for an Achilles rupture since they share many of the same symptoms. This type of injury occurs when the Achilles tendon, which connects the calf to the heel, partially or fully severs.  

Achilles ruptures require immediate medical attention to prevent further damage to the tendon. Based on the severity of the rupture, you’ll need either a non-surgical or surgical treatment. Non-surgical treatments include a brace or boot to limit motion and allow the tendon to heal. Surgical options include:  

  • Open surgery. Your doctor will make a large incision to the back of the leg to repair the tendon. 
  • Percutaneous surgery. The tendon is repaired by passing sutures in a crisscross fashion via a small needle-puncture in the skin. 

Wrist Injuries 
Finally, wrist injuries are common in players who fall on an outstretched hand. Since the wrist is composed of a complex network of ligaments and tendons that hold your wrist together, sprains, tears, and fractures are all common. Here are a few injuries that you may experience: 

  • Wrist sprains occur when the ligaments connecting the bones wrist stretch or tear. 
  • Colles fractures happen when the radius bone in the wrist breaks. 
  • Scaphoid fractures are breaks in the small bone just below the thumb. 
  • Triangular fibrocartilage complex (TFCC) tears happen when any part of the complex's ligaments, tendons, or cartilage tears.    

Any of these injuries will result in pain, swelling, or the inability to grasp objects. Treatment depends on the type of injury. However, rest and ice are often all you’ll need to get back in the game. In some severe cases, a sports medicine specialist will have to perform reconstructive surgery to repair the broken ligaments. 

If you feel like you’re experiencing any of these common basketball injuries, NY Orthopedics has multiple locations across New York and an office in New Jersey that can help you get back on the court sooner! Learn more about injury prevention or make an appointment by contacting us today! 

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