From the jump ball that starts the game until the final buzzer, basketball sends ten players sprinting and dribbling up and down the court to sink a basket.

All the jumping, running and changing direction can take its toll on players’ bodies.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Health Statistics Reports, based on 2011 to 2014 data, basketball injuries topped the list of injuries (343,000) for people between the ages of 15 and 24 and ranked third (264,000) for players who were 25 years old and older.

Basketball’s fast-pace puts players at risk for many types of injuries.

Awareness of common basketball injuries can help players, parents and coaches avoid the risk.

  • Ankle sprains. They are the most common type of injury on the court. Ankle sprains occur when the foot over rotates outward or inward, pulling and stretching the tendons and ligaments connecting the leg and foot.
  • Knee ligament tears. The stress of the game can put a great deal of pressure on the knee. Since ligaments cannot heal themselves, ACL and PCL injuries often require medical care.
  • Deep-thigh bruises.  The result of direct contact, a thigh bruise causes pain in the middle of the thigh. The injury interferes with athletes’ ability to walk, bend or straighten their legs, or lift their knees.
  • Muscle strains and pulls. When muscles are stretched past their limits as players over-reach, the result is often a pulled or strained muscle.
  • Jammed fingers. Basketball involves dribbling, throwing, catching and shooting. All that ball handling puts players at risk for jammed fingers and thumbs.
  • Stress fractures. According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, these small cracks or bruises in the bone occur due to overuse and repetitive activity. Stress fractures are common in the feet and lower legs, especially in younger basketball players.
  • Overuse injuries such as Achilles tendonitis and patellar tendonitis can keep players on the bench. These overuse injuries cause an inflammatory reaction and tiny tears in the tendons attaching the heel to the ankle and the kneecap. They are painful and require rest, ice, and in severe cases, surgery and rehabilitation.
  • Facial and eye injuries are also common in basketball. Any impact to the head should be assessed by a sports medicine specialist or a certified athletic trainer.

Whether you’re a student on a high school team or an adult who enjoys playing in a recreational league, it’s important to play safe. One of the best ways to avoid injury on the court is to prepare off the court.

Invest in quality gear.

Players should invest in shoes made for the rigors of the sport. Basketball shoes provide extra support for the feet and ankles. Some players also wear protective eyewear, shin guards and elbow braces for added protection.

Strengthen and condition the muscles used to play.

Quick blocking movements, pivots and rapid changes in direction create the perfect situation for ACL injuries. To avoid tears in the knee ligaments, coaches should teach proper technique and implement a conditioning program to strengthen the supporting muscles in the players’ legs. Conditioning and strengthening the muscles used during basketball games help players of all ages avoid sprains, strains and other serious joint injuries.

Warm up and stretch before the game starts.

Getting your muscles, tendons and joints ready to play is an effective way to avoid injury.

If you feel pain, stop playing the game.

If you experience pain or injury during the game, don’t continue to play. Playing through an injury is the best way to cause long-term damage. Stop playing and seek the advice of a certified athletic trainer or sports medicine specialist who can treat your condition and get you back on the court.