Fifteen percent of basketball players ages 5 to 15 suffer injuries, mostly involving ankle and knee sprains. Sprains occur when one or more ligaments in a joint are stretched beyond their limits. This webpage provides information on common basketball injuries requiring treatment.
Ankle sprains occur most in basketball when landing from a rebound or jumping to make a basket. Treatment varies with the severity of the injury.
- Mild sprains require rest, but not necessarily medical treatment (follow the PRICE formula shown below).
- Injuries with persistent swelling, pain or any deformity should be seen by a physician.
A common injury in basketball is an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) sprain or tear, which occurs when the knee is twisted forcefully or hyperextended. This often occurs when landing from a jump, changing direction on the court or when colliding with another player. Athletes often describe a pop at the time of injury, followed by a lot of swelling within a few hours after the injury.
Athletes should see their pediatrician or a pediatric sports medicine physician if pain and/or swelling persist after PRICE treatment. In addition:
- In younger athletes, bone maturity helps to determine the treatment plan. Injury to an open growth plate requires special consideration by a pediatric orthopedic specialist.
- Training in proper jumping and landing technique may help to prevent this injury.
Knee pain that comes on slowly over time can indicate other problems, such as:
- Patello-femoral Pain Syndrome (Runner’s Knee) – pain in the front of the knee related to muscle and tissue stress around the kneecap. This can be addressed with proper training in physical therapy.
- Osteochondritis Dissecans – a defect in the knee’s cartilage that can become evident over time during repetitive activity such as jumping.
- Osgood-Schlatter Disease – stress-related inflammation in a growth center at the front of the knee.
Asthma is a condition that causes wheezing, coughing, shortness of breath or chest tightness. Some athletes have a form of asthma that causes symptoms during or after physical activity called exercise-induced asthma. Sports requiring continuous activity, like basketball, can bring on asthma episodes in players.
Actions that may prevent or lessen exercise-induced asthma are:
- Warming up before a workout or game
- Breathing through the nose, and not the mouth, to warm and humidify the air before it enters the airway
- Wheezing or coughing that begins between five to 20 minutes after beginning to run or play is a sign that asthma is not under control and more needs to be done to control symptoms.
Basketball players are at risk of dehydration if they don’t get enough fluid to replace what is lost through the skin as sweat and through the lungs while breathing. It is important to drink plenty of fluids before, during and after a workout or game. An athlete’s performance can be impacted by even mild dehydration.
Athletes should take a water bottle to school and drink between classes and during breaks so that they are well hydrated before their workout. In addition:
- Water should be readily available when working out.
- Athletes should drink often – ideally every 15 to 30 minutes.
- Sports drinks are recommended for activities lasting longer than one hour to replace sugar and salt as well as water.
Early signs of dehydration can be non-specific and include:
Signs of advanced dehydration include:
- Dark urine
- Decrease in reaction time
- Dry lips and mouth
Athletes with any of these signs should rest and drink water or sports drinks. If the athlete doesn’t improve, feels dizzy or faint or has not had much urine output, he should be seen by a doctor. Seek emergency treatment if the child is disoriented, unable to drink or has pale skin.
Bumps, bruises, twists and muscle strains
These can affect all areas of the body. The recommended treatment response is the PRICE formula:
- Protect the area with a sling or crutches, if necessary.
- Rest the injured area.
- Ice the injury for 20 minutes at a time. Do not apply the ice directly to the skin.
- Compress the injured area with a wrap. Do not pull tightly, as this can cut off circulation.
- Elevate the injured area above the heart, if possible.
Athletes should see a pediatrician or pediatric sports medicine physician if any of these symptoms are present:
- Limping lasting more than 48 hours
- Soft tissue swelling that gets worse the next day despite ice and over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medication such as Motrin®
- Effusion – mobile soft tissue swelling on both sides of a joint, often easily seen at the knee or ankle
- Pain that returns quickly with activity at the next session or is not gone after two weeks of forced rest
Children ages 5 to 14 make up almost 40% of all sports injuries treated in hospital emergency rooms. Injuries in children are best handled by pediatric specialists trained in treating skeletally immature patients.
How to protect your child
Taking the following steps can reduce your child’s risk of getting hurt. As a parent, you should:
- Schedule your child for an annual physical before playing sports.
- Monitor play and practice and encourage players to abide by the rules.
- Have a first-aid kit handy and an emergency action plan in place. Appropriate shelter should also be close by in case of a storm with lightning.
- Keep sports fun! Remember to be positive and don’t push kids to perform beyond their abilities.
Make sure your young athlete:
- Wears appropriate properly fitting safety gear, free of heavy wear and tear.
- Stays properly hydrated. Kids don’t sweat as much as adults and need to drink plenty of fluids before, during and after activity.
- Does warm-up and cool-down exercises before and after practices and games.
- Gets proper rest and avoids overdoing it. Baseball, basketball, running, gymnastics and swimming are sports that cause the most overuse injuries in kids.