When Americans think of high-injury sports, they may think of football, rugby, or boxing. But according to data from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System (NEISS), in 2021, the most injuries that landed Americans in the emergency room were actually from basketball! Because basketball is a contact sport with complex movements, players are at risk of musculoskeletal injuries in all areas of the body. Keeping that in mind, let’s look at the two different categories that sports injuries fall into and what injuries are common in basketball.

What Are the Two Main Types of Sports Injuries?

Sports injuries happen during sports competitions or injuries that athletes get due to their training. People with physical jobs, such as construction workers, factory workers, painters, etc. that get injured can also be listed in this category. Sports injuries are divided into two broad categories: acute injuries and chronic injuries.

Acute injuries happen when someone has a sudden event that happens during physical activity. This injury could be from tripping, slipping, falling, taking a blow, or twisting a joint. Some of the most common acute injuries that you may see among athletes are:

  • Sprains
  • Strains
  • Dislocations
  • Open wounds
  • Broken bones
  • Concussions
  • Muscle or ligament tears
  • Fractures

Chronic injuries, on the other hand, are usually a type of overuse injury that develops gradually over time. These develop in athletes from long-term repetitive sports. Examples of these may be shin splints from running or shoulder impingement from swimming. Here are some common chronic injuries you may see among athletes:

  • Achilles tendon injuries
  • Runner’s knee
  • Tennis elbow
  • Stress fractures
  • Shin splints

basketball players on court

What is the Most Common Basketball Injury?

To discover what the most common basketball injury is, we looked at a research article from 2007 titled “Prospective Epidemiological Study of Basketball Injuries During One Competitive Season.” In this study, over 150 basketball players (23.7 years ± 7) across genders were examined over one basketball season. From this research, we were able to find the most common acute and chronic injuries. 

Overall, ankle sprains are the most common basketball injury in the NBA and other leagues. 

The most common acute basketball injury is an ankle sprain. Ankle sprains are caused mostly by changing direction on the court or being landed on by an opponent. When somebody sprains their ankle, it is usually from “rolling” the foot inward, causing injury to the ligament outside the ankle. These sprains can also occur on the inside of the ankle, but these are rare. Ankle sprains are generally graded on a scale from 1-3. Normally ankle sprains can be treated with “RICE”: rest, ice, compression, and evaluation. If ankle sprains are grade 3, surgery may be needed. 

The most common chronic basketball injury is anterior knee pain. Anterior knee pain is pain in the front or center of the knee. From this study, about 80% of these players with anterior knee pain suffered from “jumper’s knee,” also known as patellar tendonitis or patellofemoral pain syndrome. This happens when frequent jumping, running, and changing direction damage the patellar tendon. Pain often increases when you run, squat, walk up hills, stairs, and especially in walking down hills or stairs. 

Across genders and skill levels, the ankle and knee joints have the highest number of injuries. Professional NBA players experience high rates of game-related injuries. Patellofemoral inflammation is the biggest cause of days lost in games/competitions. 

basketball players on orange and grey court

What Are Other Common Basketball Injuries?

In the article “Epidemiology of Sports Injuries in Basketball: Integrative Systematic Review,” the department of Orthopedics and Traumatology at Universidade Federal de São Paulo, Brazil, looked at 268 research articles on basketball injuries. From this information, they made assumptions about what injuries were most likely. With over 12,960 injuries observed, they discovered the following:

  • Most injuries from this group (63.7%) occurred in the lower limbs, with most being ankle and knee injuries (further supporting ankle sprains and anterior knee pain being the most common injuries).
  • Injuries in the upper limbs accounted for 12-14% of total injuries.
  • Adult players have more injuries in the trunk and spine than youth and children.
  • Youth and children receive the most head injuries in basketball.
  • The upper arm, hands, fingers, and wrists get injured more often than the shoulders, elbows, and forearms.  
  • Across professional and experienced players, thigh injuries became increasingly common.

If you have received an injury in basketball and are looking for recovery help, we recommend seeing a sports medicine specialist. At ISMI, we treat basketball players of all ages. Contact us today if you’re interested in receiving treatment! 


Andreoli CV, Chiaramonti BC, Buriel E, Pochini AC, Ejnisman B, Cohen M. Epidemiology of sports injuries in basketball: integrative systematic review. BMJ Open Sport Exerc Med. 2018 Dec 27;4(1):e000468. doi: 10.1136/bmjsem-2018-000468. PMID: 30687514; PMCID: PMC6326319.

Cumps E, Verhagen E, Meeusen R. Prospective epidemiological study of basketball injuries during one competitive season: ankle sprains and overuse knee injuries. J Sports Sci Med. 2007 Jun 1;6(2):204-11. PMID: 24149330; PMCID: PMC3786241.

Drakos MC, Domb B, Starkey C, Callahan L, Allen AA. Injury in the national basketball association: a 17-year overview. Sports Health. 2010 Jul;2(4):284-90. doi: 10.1177/1941738109357303. PMID: 23015949; PMCID: PMC3445097.

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