Basketball and Volleyball (Care of the Young Athlete)

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Acute and overuse injuries are common in jumping
sports like basketball and volleyball. Acute injuries include bruises
(contusions); cuts and scrapes (lacerations); ankle, knee, or finger sprains or
fractures; shoulder dislocations; eye injuries; and concussions. Overuse
injuries include patellar tendonitis (also called jumper’s knee) or
Osgood-Schlatter disease, spondylolysis (stress fracture of the spine), rotator
cuff tendinopathy, stress fractures, and shin splints.

The following is information from the American
Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) about how to prevent basketball and volleyball
injuries. Also included is an overview of common basketball and volleyball

Injury prevention and safety tips

  • Sports physical exam.
    Athletes should have a preparticipation physical evaluation (PPE) to
    make sure they are ready to safely begin the sport. The best time for a
    PPE is about 4 to 6 weeks before the beginning of the season. Athletes
    also should see their doctors for regular health well-child

  • Fitness. Athletes should
    maintain a good fitness level during the season and off-season.
    Preseason training should allow time for general conditioning and
    sport-specific conditioning. Also important are proper warm-up and
    cool-down exercises.

  • Technique. Athletes should
    learn and practice safe techniques for performing the skills that are
    integral to their sport. Athletes should work with coaches and athletic
    trainers on achieving proper technique.

  • Equipment. Safety gear
    should fit properly and be well maintained.

    • Shoes should be in
      good condition, appropriate for the surface and laces tied.

    • Ankle braces or
      applied by a certified athletic trainer can
      prevent or reduce the frequency of ankle sprains.

    • Knee pads have been
      shown to reduce knee abrasions and contusions (bruises).

    • Buddy tape (tape
      around the injured finger and the one beside it) can prevent
      reinjury to an injured finger. X-rays should be obtained in all
      “jammed” fingers.

    • Mouth guards
      prevent dental injuries.

    • Protective eyewear.
      Glasses or goggles should be made with polycarbonate or a
      similar material. The material should conform to the standards
      of the American Society for Testing and Materials.

  • Environment. A safe playing
    area is clean and clear. Goalposts should be padded.

  • Emergency plan. Teams
    should develop and practice an emergency plan so that team members know
    their roles in emergency situations. The plan would include first aid
    and emergency contact information. All members of the team should
    receive a written copy each season. Parents also should be familiar with
    the plan and review it with their children.

Common injuries

Ankle sprains

Ankle sprains, one of the most common
injuries in jumping sports, can prevent athletes from being able to play.
They often happen when a player lands from a jump onto another
player’s foot, causing the ankle to roll in (invert). They are more
likely to happen if a player had a previous sprain, especially a recent

Treatment begins with rest, ice,
compression, and elevation (RICE). Athletes should see a doctor as soon as
possible if they cannot walk on the injured ankle or have severe pain.
X-rays are often needed to look for a fracture.

Regular icing (20 minutes) helps with pain
and swelling. Weight bearing and exercises to regain range of motion,
strength, and balance are key factors to getting back to sports. Tape and
ankle braces can prevent or reduce the frequency of ankle sprains. Tape and
an ankle brace can also support the ankle, enabling an athlete to return to
activity more quickly.

Finger injuries

Finger injuries occur when the finger is
struck by the ball or an opponent’s hand or body. The “jammed
finger” is often overlooked because of the myth that nothing needs to
be done, even if it is broken. If fractures that involve a joint or tendon
are not properly treated, permanent damage can occur.

Any injury that is associated with a
dislocation, deformity, inability to straighten or bend the finger, or
significant pain should be examined by a doctor. X-rays are often needed to
look for a fracture. Buddy tape may be all that is needed to return to
sports; however, this cannot be assumed without an exam and x-ray. Swelling
often persists for weeks to months after a finger joint sprain. Ice,
nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), and range of motion exercises
are important for treatment.

Knee injuries

Knee injuries commonly occur from cutting,
pivoting, landing from a jump, or contact with another athlete. If the athlete
feels a pop or shift in the knee, then it’s most likely a ligament injury
or knee cap dislocation. Anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tears are more common
in females than males.

Treatment begins with RICE. Athletes should see
a doctor as soon as possible if they cannot walk on the injured knee. Athletes
should also see a doctor if the knee is swollen, a pop is felt at the time of
injury, or the knee feels loose or like it will give way.

Athletes who return to play with a torn ACL risk
further joint damage. Athletes with an ACL tear are usually unable to return to
their sport until after reconstruction and rehabilitation.

Patellar tendonitis (jumper’s knee) is a
common overuse injury seen from repetitive jumping and landing from jumps. It
causes pain in the front of the knee with jumping, sometimes associated with a
bump, and can be severe. It is treated with ice, stretching, NSAIDs, and
relative rest.

Shoulder injuries

Shoulder injuries in volleyball can occur from
repetitive hitting (spiking) or serving. Shoulder injuries in basketball can
occur from diving or rebounding.

Athletes usually feel the shoulder pop out of
joint when their shoulders are dislocated. Most of the time the shoulder goes
back into the joint on its own; this is called a subluxation
(partial dislocation). If the athlete requires help to get it back in, it is
called a dislocation. Risk of dislocation recurrence is high
for youth participating in these sports. Shoulder strengthening exercises,
braces and, in some cases, surgery may be recommended to prevent recurrence.

Pain from repetitive use is common in
volleyball, usually due to weak muscles of the shoulder blade and trunk. Often
rehabilitation exercises and rest from excessive hitting or serving are all that
is needed.

Eye injuries

Eye injuries commonly occur in sports that
involve balls but can also result from a finger or another object in the
eye. Any injury that affects vision or is associated with swelling or blood
inside the eye should be evaluated by an ophthalmologist. The AAP recommends
that children involved in organized sports wear appropriate protective

Head injuries

Concussions can occur after an injury to the
head or neck contacting the ground, equipment, or another athlete. A
concussion is any injury to the brain that disrupts normal brain function on
a temporary or permanent basis.

The signs and symptoms of a concussion range
from subtle to obvious and usually happen right after the injury but may
take hours to days to show up. Athletes who have had concussions may report
feeling normal before their brain has fully recovered. With most
concussions, the player is not knocked out or

Prematurely returning to play after a
concussion can lead to another concussion or even death. An athlete with a
history of concussion may be more susceptible to another injury than an
athlete with no history of concussion.

All concussions are serious, and all athletes with suspected
concussions should not return to play until they see a


Basketball and volleyball injuries can be
prevented when fair play is encouraged and the rules of the game are enforced.
Also, athletes should use the appropriate equipment and safety guidelines should
always be followed.