The most common basketball knee injuries involve tendons, ligaments, and/or meniscus problems – each one with its own set of symptoms and treatments.
And if you play this sport, you should be familiar with them, as 17% of basketball players suffer from knee injuries. (1)
Tap on each link below to find out how these common knee injuries occur in a basketball game, and what to do about them:
- Jumper’s knee
- Osgood-Schlatter’s disease
- Runner’s knee
- Knee sprain
- Meniscal tears
- 5 best treatment options
1) Jumper’s knee
This is also known as patellar tendonitis, which is an inflammation of the tendon in the front of your knee joint.
Tendons, you see, connect your muscles to bones and help transmit force. But excessive jumping movements put a strain on this tissue, leading to inflammation and pain during your sport. (2)
2) Osgood-Schlatter’s disease (OSD)
This is an overuse injury that tends to occur in sporty adolescents that haven’t finished their bone development. (3)
Here, excessive jumping and sprinting can cause your patellar tendon to pull on its attachment to your shin bone. This results in pain, swelling, and tenderness right below your kneecap. (3)
And although less common, people that suffered from OSD in their youth may have a flare-up during adulthood.
Learn more: Full guide on Osgood-Schlatter’s disease.
3) Runner’s knee
This injury causes pain around the kneecap that worsens with jogging and bending your knee. Creaking joint noises can also be present when straightening your leg. (4)
Runner’s knee is brought on by excessive movement paired with having weak hip muscles. Being knock-kneed or bow-legged is also a risk factor. (4)
This can help: What if you have knee pain after playing basketball? What could it be?
4) Knee sprains
These are injuries to the knee ligaments – tissues that connect bones to other bones and restrict excess joint movement.
The most commonly injured knee ligaments in basketball are the ACL and the PCL:
This stands for the anterior cruciate ligament tear.
ACL injuries occur when your knee forcefully caves inward, usually during a sudden twisting motion. This can happen through (5):
- Direct contact, like another player falling onto your outer knee.
- Non-contact, like during sudden stops and directional changes.
Most patients tend to hear a “pop” or feel their knee “giving out” at the time of the injury. (5)
Related: Can you run with a torn ACL?
This stands for posterior cruciate ligament, which is twice as thick as the ACL. (6)
Although uncommon, a PCL tear can happen in basketball if someone falls in front of your shin while your knee is bent.
Symptoms include a distinct “popping sound” during the injury, followed by pain, swelling, and knee instability. (6)
Learn more: Everything about knee sprains.
5) Meniscal tears
The menisci are wedge cartilaginous structures within your knee that absorb the force going through your leg. But, twisting your knee suddenly on a planted foot could damage these soft tissues.
Symptoms include pain, immediate swelling, locking, and the inability to completely straighten your leg. (7)
Know more: What happens if you leave a meniscus tear untreated?
Best ways to treat a basketball knee injury
Treatment options differ based on the injury itself and how bad it was, but here are the most common ones:
Applying the RICE method
This is a first-aid option especially in the first few days after injury to reduce pain and swelling. RICE stands for:
- Resting your knee and avoid further playing basketball for a while.
- Icing your knee for pain relief
- Compression bandage to decrease swelling.
- Elevating your leg to accelerate excess fluid removal.
Keep reading: How long should you apply ice on your knees after playing basketball?
Wearing knee braces
A knee brace can help limit your leg movement to prevent further damage. Each type of knee support will then depend on what you need.
A compression sleeve, for example, could give extra compression and enhance joint awareness. Meanwhile, a hinged knee brace offers more restrictive protection against lateral joint movements.
This will help: Best knee braces for basketball players.
Overuse injuries could benefit from body conditioning, granted that your knee doesn’t swell or hurt that much anymore.
This includes doing quadriceps and hip and strengthening drills, among other exercises. Doing these regularly will improve your tissue resiliency against excess movement and force. (2, 3, 4)
Try it: Top 10 knee exercises for basketball.
Going to physical therapy
Physical therapists (PT) are health experts trained to help you recover from painful knee injuries.
We help you figure out the root cause of your injury, and do the following to get you back in the game:
- Thermotherapy for symptom reduction.
- Individualized exercise treatment programs.
- Joint manipulation and therapy for mobilization.
- Treatment protocols to get you ready for surgery if needed.
This option may be necessary for athletes suffering from a severe tear of either ligament or meniscus. (5, 7)
As for knee ligament repair, this is usually done by stitching the tissue back together. Severe cases may need grafts, followed by months of physical therapy to get you back in game shape. (8)
Repairing a meniscus tear depends on the area of the tissue involved, though. The outer 1/3 of your meniscus has good blood flow and may heal on its own, or with a quick repair. (7)
However, tears in the inner 2/3 of the meniscus may need a repair with some partial removal to make up for their lack of blood supply. (9)
Further reading: 8 Tried-and-true treatments for knee pain after basketball.
Can basketball make your knees hurt?
Playing basketball can make your knees hurt if you are a beginner or have poor body conditioning.
How do you treat a knee injury from basketball?
You treat a knee injury from basketball by doing the RICE method right away, and going to a healthcare professional to figure out the best treatment plan for you.
Does basketball damage your knees?
Done properly, basketball shouldn’t damage your knees. This can happen if you continue to play even with a knee injury, though.
Conclusion: What are the types of knee injuries from basketball?
Overuse injuries, ligament, and meniscal tears are some of the more common injuries in basketball. You can minimize your risk of having them with proper conditioning and rest.
But if you ever need help in preventing or recovering from any of the injuries above, consult your sports medicine doctor or PT for help.
- Andreoli, Carlos Vicente et al. “Epidemiology of sports injuries in basketball: integrative systematic review.” BMJ open sport & exercise medicine vol. 4,1 e000468. 27 Dec. 2018, DOI: 10.1136/bmjsem-2018-000468
- Santana JA, Mabrouk A, Sherman Al. Jumpers Knee. [Updated 2022 Jul 19]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK532969/
- Smith JM, Varacallo M. Osgood Schlatter Disease. [Updated 2022 Feb 12]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK441995/
- InformedHealth.org [Internet]. Cologne, Germany: Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG); 2006-. Patellofemoral pain syndrome (runner’s knee): Overview. 2020 Aug 13. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK561507/
- Evans J, Nielson Jl. Anterior Cruciate Ligament Knee Injuries. [Updated 2022 May 5]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK499848/
- Raj MA, Mabrouk A, Varacallo M. Posterior Cruciate Ligament Knee Injuries. [Updated 2022 Feb 12]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK430726/
- Raj MA, Bubnis MA. Knee Meniscal Tears. [Updated 2022 Jul 18]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK431067/
- Macaulay, Alec A et al. “Anterior cruciate ligament graft choices.” Sports health vol. 4,1 (2012): 63-8. doi: 10.1177/1941738111409890
- Mordecai, Simon C et al. “Treatment of meniscal tears: An evidence-based approach.” World journal of orthopedics vol. 5,3 233-41. 18 Jul. 2014, doi: 10.5312/wjo.v5.i3.233