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Basketball Injury Prevention

Before Practices And Games

Be sure your child warm ups and stretches Research shows that cold muscles are more injury prone. While a proper warm-up is important for all youth athletes, it is particularly critical during a growth spurt, when your child's muscles and tendons are tight. Experts recommend that your child warm up by:

  • Doing jumping jacks, jogging or walking in place for 3 to 5 minutes to get the blood moving through the muscles and ligaments.

  • Then slowly and gently stretch, holding each stretch for 30 seconds.

Inspect the court. The court can pose a risk of injury. A parent or the coach should check to see that:

  • Outdoor courts are free of rocks, holes, or any other unsafe conditions. If play is at night, make sure the court is properly lighted.

  • Indoor courts are clean, dry, free of debris, and have good traction.

  • Baskets and boundary lines are not too close to walls, bleachers, water fountains, or other structures.

  • Goals, as well as the walls behind them, are padded.

  • Temporary or movable backboards and baskets should be firmly secured prior to play.

Remember: Young children can be severely injured or die in falls from bleachers or entrapment in partially opened bleachers. Never let your child play on bleachers during a basketball game or at practice and always keep her away from the edges of the bleachers.

During Practices And Games

Insist that your child wears all required safety gear at every practice and game, including:


  • Knee and elbow pads to protect against scrapes and bruises.

  • Mouth guards to prevent serious dental injuries.

  • Protective eyewear. For kids who wear glasses, you should obtain protective eyewear from an eye-care professional who is aware of sports-safety standards, says Dr. Paul Vinger, a clinical professor of ophthalmology at Tufts Medical School in Boston and head of the Protective Eyewear Certification Council. Prescription glasses should be fitted with shatterproof lenses and sports frames that hold the lenses tightly in place.

  • Clean uniform. Don't let your child leave his dirty uniform in his locker at school or on the floor of his room. Wearing unsanitary clothing poses a risk of staph infection, not only to your child but the rest of the team.

Make sure she stays hydrated. As parent or coach, you are responsible for taking precautions to heat illnesses in exercising children and making sure they drink enough fluids.

Make sure players don't wear jewelry or chew gum.

  • If the court is outside, make sure your child's team/club/program has a weather policy. Guidelines regarding playing or practicing in bad weather, such as lightning storms or extreme heat should be established well in advance of the season, and followed by all coaches, players and spectators. In the event of lightning, teach your child to stay away from open fields, trees, and water and to get indoors or inside a car, if possible, until the storm passes, and, if caught out in the open, to lie down and curl up in a fetal position.

  • User smaller balls for younger kids. Basketballs are available in different sizes and materials. Younger players should use smaller, lighter-weight balls. If your child is under age seven, encourage the league to use smaller, mini-foam or rubber balls. They weigh less and are easier for young players to handle.

All Season Long
  • Talk to and watch your child's coach. Coaches should enforce all the rules of the game, encourage safe play, and understand the special injury risks that young players face. Coaches should never yell at players or engage in any other form of emotional abuse.

  • Never allow players to hold, block, push, trip, or charge opponents.

  • Never allow players to play through pain. Any persistent pain is a sign of a chronic (i.e. overuse) or acute injury that should sideline a child from playing until it subsides. Teach your child not to play through pain. If your child gets injured, see your doctor. Follow all the doctor's orders for recovery and get the doctor's (or physical therapist's) OK before allowing your child to play again.

  • Above all, keep basketball fun. Coaches and parents can prevent physical and emotional injuries, by creating an atmosphere of healthy competition and de-emphasizing a "winning-at-all-costs" attitude. Putting too much focus on winning can make your child push too hard, ignore the signs of injury and risk injury by playing in pain.