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5 Risk Factors for Basketball Ankle Injuries

With basketball season approaching, is your young athlete at risk for an ankle injury? A lower extremity injury accounts for 60% of all basketball-related injuries.2 And, as you would have guessed, an ankle sprain is the most common. In fact, an ankle sprain is the most common orthopedic injury seen in emergency departments each year.

In 2013, the Journal of Orthopaedic and Sports Physical Therapy reviewed a multitude of research studies in hopes of identifying a set of risk factors that place an athlete at risk for suffering a lateral ankle sprain. With moderate to strong supporting evidence the study discovered these five risk factors1:

1. A previous ankle sprain

According to research, a previous ankle sprain may increase your child’s risk of re-injury to the ankle by 2-5 times.2

2. Improper warm up without stretching and movement-based drills

Coaches and parents should ensure their young athlete is participating in a proper warm-up prior to practice and competition. This warm-up should include stretching and drills that mimic basketball specific movements.

3. Lack of normal ankle mobility

A lack of normal ankle dorsiflexion (pulling the foot upward) can place an athlete at risk for both ankle and knee injuries. This could occur because an athlete’s calf muscle lacks adequate flexibility during the rapid growth years. A physical therapist or athletic trainer can properly assess your child’s ankle range of motion and give tips on improving this if there is a limitation.

4 A previous ankle injury + did NOT complete a balance & proprioception prevention program

Following an ankle sprain, an athlete may lose strength, stability, balance and sensory awareness to the ankle. A physical therapist or athletic trainer can instruct the athlete on proper balance and stability exercises to decrease the chance of another injury. Without this training, the athlete is at a high risk for injury.

5. A previous ankle injury + did NOT properly apply bracing/taping

An ankle sprain may require proper bracing or taping as the ankle recovers. This will provide support and stability to the ankle during the child’s athletic performance and decrease the risk of re-injury.

Understanding risk factors and assessing your child prior to and during the season can help minimize the risk of injury and keep your athlete on the court.

As rehab professionals working with young athletes, we place a lot of emphasis on correcting abnormal movement patterns and building hip and core strength. These key components are the base of all movement upon which more complex sports movements are built. This has been shown to not only decrease an athlete’s risk of injuring the ankle, but to decrease the risk of all sports-related injuries.


1. Martin, Robroy L., et al. "Ankle stability and movement coordination impairments: ankle ligament sprains." Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy (2013).

2. McKay GD, et al. “Ankle injuries in basketball: Injury rates and risk factors. Br J Sports Med 35:103-108, 2001.

Dr. Cody Jones, PT, DPT, PCS is a board certified pediatric physical therapist with a special interest in sports and orthopedics in the youth and adolescent populations. He is a staff physical therapist at the Children’s Health Children’s Andrews Institute for Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine in Plano, Texas. He holds a bachelor of science degree in biology from Angelo State University obtaining and a doctorate of physical therapy from TWU-Dallas. He received his pediatric board certification in 2014.

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