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Tag Archives: injuries

Basketball is a total-body sport that involves running, walking, sprinting, changes of direction, shuffling, and jumping. While it’s intended to be a non-contact sport, many injuries are related to contact. Regardless of whether it is men’s or women’s basketball, European or collegiate or high school, ankle injuries are the most common injuries seen in the sport, followed by knee and lower back injuries (Agel et al 2007, Kofotolis et al 2007, Mihata et al 2006, Stergioulas et al 2007). There are more injuries in games than practices and many of the ankle injuries result from contact.

Basketball is characterized by short bursts of high-intensity movement. The table below is from Abdelkrim et al (2010) and shows the distance and percentage of time devoted towards each type of movement pattern. In their article, the authors define the speeds at which each movement pattern takes place (for example, sprinting is in excess of 24 km/hour). The point is that very little time and distance is devoted to high-speed/intensity movements. Almost 63% of game time is devoted to walking or standing. This means that basketball athletes have to be conditioned for short bursts of speed and power.

However, as Taylor (2003) points out, though, this is going to change depending upon the personnel, level of play, coaching style/scheme, etc. So while the information below is useful, it should not be viewed as an absolute.

  Ttl Distance % Ttl Time




















LI Shuffle



MI Shuffle



HI Shuffle







The sport has five major types of positions; shooting guards, point guards, small forwards, power forwards, and centers. As we’ll discuss in a future blog, each position has different physical characteristics that are necessary for success. Point guards are the main ball handlers and prepare the offense. Shooting guards are often the team’s best scorer. Small forwards tend to be well balanced in terms of skills and important for the defense. The power forward is important for defense and guards the basket. The center is generally the tallest player on the court, blocks shots, scores around the basket, and has a large rebounding responsibility. In the next post, where we discuss characteristics of the positions, the guards will be lumped together as will the forwards.

Abdelkrim, N.B., Castagna, C., Jabri, I., Battikh, T., Fazaa, S.E., and Ati, J.E. Activity profile and physiological requirements of junior elite basketball players in relation to aerobic-anaerobic fitness. J Strength Cond Re 24(9): 2330-2342, 2010.

Agel, J., Olson, D.E., Dick, R., Arendt, E.A., Marshall, S.W., and Sikka, R.S. Descriptive epidemiology of collegiate women’s basketball injuries: National Collegiate Athletic Association injury surveillance system, 1988-1989 through 2003-2004. J Athl Training 42(2): 202-210, 2007.

Kofotolis, N. and Kellis, E. Ankle sprain injuries: A 2 year prospective cohort study in female Greek professional basketball players. J Athl Training 42(3): 388-394.

Mihata, L.C.S., Beutler, A.I., and Boden, B.P. Comparing the incidence of anterior cruciate ligament injury in collegiate lacrosse, soccer, and basketball players: Implications for anterior cruciate ligament mechanism and prevention. Am J Sport Med 34: 899-904, 2006.

Stergioulas, A., Tripolitsioti, A., Kostopoulos, N., Gavriilidis, A., Sotiropoulos, D., and Baltopoulos, P. Amateur basketball injuries: A prospective study among male and female athletes. Biol Exercise 3: 35-45, 2007.

Taylor, J. Basketball: Applying time motion data to conditioning. Strength and Conditioning Journal, 25(2): 57-64, 2003.

Wilson et al, in the most recent issue of Clinical Biomechanics, looked at differences in gluteus maximus and gluteus medius functioning in females with patellofemoral pain syndrome (PFPS). The authors, in their introduction, point out that PFPS is experienced disproportionately by females and that those females have altered hip joint kinematics during running.

The authors studied two groups of recreational female runners, aged 18-35. One group suffered form PFPS, one did not. For both groups, gluteus medius and maximus activity was analyzed during a maximum voluntary isometric contraction (MVIC), hip motion, and during 20 meters of running.

The authors found some differences between the runners with PFPS and those without:
• During running, the gluteus medius was activated 24ms earlier before foot contact in individuals without PFPS. It also remained active 42 ms longer in individuals without PFPS.
• This difference resulted in greater hip adduction excursion and greater hip internal rotation excursion during running for individuals with PFPS.
• No differences between the groups in terms of gluteus maximus activation.

This is interesting from the standpoint that female runners with PFPS have some altered gluteus medius activity, which impacts running kinematics. It is unclear if the gluteus medius activity causes the PFPS or is caused by it and the study cannot answer this question. It’s also unclear what long-term negative effects might be caused by this alteration in hip kinematics. Finally, it needs to be kept in perspective that the study was very limited in terms of its subject pool so it is unclear how much of its results can be applied to individuals outside that subject pool.

Wilson, J.D., Kernozek, T.W., Arndt, R.L., Reznichek, D.A., and Straker, J.S. (2011). Gluteal muscle activation during running in females with and without patellofemoral pain syndrome. Clinical Biomechanics, 26: 735-740.

Elliott et al published a study in the April issue of the American Journal of Sports Medicine looking at hamstring injuries in NFL football players over a 10 year period, 1989-1998. This information is drawn from information that the teams’ athletic trainers submit to the NFL based upon uniform reporting definitions.

Over this 10-year period, players on NFL teams experienced almost 1720 hamstring strains, with about 20% being severe and the rest evenly split between being minor and moderate. Minor injuries result in less than seven days of missed participation, 7-21 are moderate, 21+ are severe. Almost 17% of those hamstring strains were re-injuries.

Almost 53% of the hamstring injuries occurred during practices with the rest occurring during games.

More than 53% of the hamstring injuries occurred during the pre-season. In fact:
• 80% of all practice injuries occurred during the pre-season
• 22% of game-related injuries occurred during the pre-season

In terms of position and injuries, the following positions sustained the highest number of injuries:
• Defensive secondary (23%)
• Wide receivers (21%)
• Special teams (13%)
• Running backs (12%)
• Linebackers (12%)

The first thing that needs to be kept in mind with this information is that it is dated, even since 1998 players are larger and both practices and the season are a little different. The second important thing is that it applies to a very specific population.

The observation that a lot of the injuries are occurring in pre-season indicates a lack of off-season preparation. In other words, the injuries are occurring as the players are getting back into shape.

While this information is applicable to a really specific population, it’s something that can be examined for any coach’s specific situation. This type of information tells us that there’s a need for a more consistent off-season program, it tells us which positions get injured the most (so that their position-specific workouts can be tailored to preventing these injuries), and it gives us a good idea of when these injuries occur so that we can prepare for that.

Elliott, M.C.C.W., Powell, J.W., and C.D. Kenyon. (2011). Hamstring muscle strains in professional football players: A 10-year review. American Journal of Sports Medicine, 39(4): 843-850.