It may be fun to play and great exercise, but basketball is also a contact sport, and injuries occur frequently and range from sprained ankles to concussions.

Also, since basketball players play year-round, indoors and out, many get repetitive stress injuries like tendonitis. To keep your kids as safe as possible, make sure they follow these tips.

Gear Guidelines

Two people, a ball and a basketball hoop are just about everything needed for a basketball game. But the right gear can go a long way to preventing injuries during a game. Consider:

  • Basketball sneakers. The right shoe can reduce ankle, foot and leg injuries. For added ankle support, choose high-top sneakers. Basketball shoes should have sturdy, non-skid soles and should be securely laced at all times while playing.
  • Athletic support. For boys, an athletic support and possibly a protective cup. For girls, good sports bras. All players should consider wearing supportive athletic shorts beneath their basketball shorts for additional protection and support.
  • Mouthguard. Whether your league requires it or not, players should consider wearing a mouthguard to guard against broken teeth and other mouth or tongue injuries.
  • Eye protection. Players who wear glasses, and many who wear contacts, will want to use protective eyewear made of shatterproof plastic. In fact, eye injuries are common in basketball and all players should consider protective eyewear during gameplay.
  • Joint supports. Kids with prior injuries in particular can benefit from fitted knee, ankle, wrist or other joint braces to support their joints while playing.

Before Tip-Off

Kids should warm up and stretch before playing. This doesn't mean just shooting a few hoops or dribbling with both hands. They should do more involved warming up followed by dynamic stretching.

Kids should feel confident on the court. They need to practice moves and running the court before they try to duplicate these maneuvers during a game. Knowing what to do and how to do it will make movements less awkward and less prone to injury.

Excessive Play

With summer AAU programs, school and church leagues, travel teams, camps and all-star games to choose from, lots of kids and teens spend the whole year playing basketball. This can lead to more than just burnout. Sprains and sprains, tendonitis, growth plate injuries and stress fractures can become very painful and debilitating if untreated.

Encourage your child to always tell a coach or parent when experiencing any pain, and never ignore any tweaks, spasms or discomfort while playing. Ignoring overuse injuries will only make them harder to recover from in the long run.

A Few Other Reminders

  • Kids should have a pre-season sports physical exam (different from a regular physical exam) before every season to be sure they are ready to play.
  • As with many sports, basketball requires athletic movements. Staying in good shape year-round will not only make kids better at these actions, it will help them reduce their risk of injury. Make sure your kids get plenty of exercise before the season starts.
  • Also make sure they know how to stay well hydrated. Heat-related illnesses and dehydration are risks on indoor and outdoor courts.
  • If it's on-court and serious, make sure a responsible adult is on hand to supervise and drive injured kids to the ER.

With all this in mind, kids can get out there on the court and have fun working on their skills and leading their team to victory. With a little forethought and some common sense and etiquette, they can stay safe and in the game.