Basketball has been a favorite sport ever since James Naismith first nailed a peach basket to the wall of the YMCA in Springfield, Mass. in 1891. It is popular among many families as boys and girls can practice together at home with just a hoop in the driveway.
Basketball is also a great sport that can help athletes develop hand-eye coordination, cardiovascular health as well as team-building and self-esteem. These are the reasons why it is one of the most loved sports in the United States. More than half a million boys and nearly 460,000 girls participate in youth basketball nationwide.
Risk of injuries
When parents and grandparents take the time to educate themselves about potential risks and encourage their young athletes to protect themselves and stay healthy, then basketball can provide a lifetime of fitness, fun and recreation. I must admit even though approximately 1.6 million basketball injuries at all ages recreational and organized teams are reported each year, I am still shocked that the high-energy, fast-moving, contact collision nature of this sport does not produce more injuries than it currently does. This tells me that parents and coaches are doing something right. However, there is still much that can be done to protect these young athletes.
Injuries in girls’ basketball is reported to be higher than the injuries in boys’ basketball. Likewise, women’s basketball is currently a hot topic in sports medicine due to the high number of ACL injuries that have been reported. As such, the prevention and treatment of injuries for young female basketball players has been given much attention the past few years. This has been long overdue.
Concussions also have become a major problem for both boys’ and girls’ basketball. Girls currently outnumber the boys with this particular injury in basketball.
Steps for prevention
As with any youth sport, prevention is still the most important aspect to keep children on the basketball court and out of the OR. As orthopedic surgeons, that is our number one goal. When we work with coaches, parents and athletes in following the following prevention steps, we will further reduce injuries in youth basketball.
1. As with any major youth sports, basketball players should undergo preseason examination with a sports pediatrician or a sports family doctor.
2. Youth basketball players should hydrate adequately. They should also pay attention to weather advisories to avoid heat-related illnesses.
3. Youth basketball players should maintain proper fitness and should have a gradual work-up to get in shape and acclimatize before they begin active basketball competition.
4. Youth basketball players should avoid overtraining in order to starve off overuse injuries, such as stress fractures in and around the lower limb.
5. Specialization and year-round training for basketball should be avoided. Young athletes should not specialize until they are at least senior in high school.
6. Players should listen to their bodies and decrease training time and/or intensity if pain develops. They obviously should be honest with their coach, parents and athletic trainer, if present, about any pain they are feeling.
7. The use of athletic trainers at all levels of youth basketball is encouraged. Athletic trainers are especially needed at all youth’s basketball practices as well as games. If there are any questions about a specific injury to a youth basketball player, then an evaluation by a certified athletic trainer should be conducted, followed by to a referral to a sports medicine-trained physician when appropriate.
Andrews JR, Yaeger D. Any Given Monday: Sports Injuries and How to Prevent Them for Athletes, Parents, and Coaches – Based on My Life in Sports Medicine. Scribner; New York; 2013.
James R. Andrews, MD, is a founding partner and medical director of the Andrews Institute for Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine in Gulf Breeze, Fla. He also is a co-founder of the American Sports Medicine Institute in Birmingham, Ala. He can be reached at the Andrews Institute for Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine, 1040 Gulf Breeze Pkwy., Suite 203, Gulf Breeze, FL 32561; email: firstname.lastname@example.org.