Player Injury & Safety

What to Discover or Recall:

Discover the magnitude and responsibility of player safety and injury prevention.
Comprehend that, in addition to first aid certification, coaches need to be conscious of specific basketball related injuries.
Learn to be cognizant of potential safety hazards on and around the court at all times.
Understand the importance of never putting a player at risk by having them play while injured.

Basketball Injury

Medical Emergency Preparation

Are you prepared for a player medical emergency?

| Certification | Sudden Cardio Death | Coaching Liability | Basketball Injuries | Player Safety & Injury Prevention | Heat Stroke |

Is your First Aid and CPR training up to date?

If not, now  is a great time to become current. Training and certification does not take much time and the benefits are priceless. CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) training is just not a simple matter of meeting a coaching certification requirement. It is a matter of obtaining the knowledge and capability to save the life of one of your players. Coaches should not step on the floor without it.

CAUTION: When undertaking First Aid and CPR training, do not vision yourself of saving a complete stranger’s life and receiving a medal. The life you are going to save is going to be someone close and dear to you (a parent, spouse, child, best friend, one of  your players, etc.)!

Washington State University women’s head basketball coach, June Daugherty, who not only had one of her players survive a cardiac arrest (stoppage of the heart), but also survived a cardiac arrest herself, has reminded HoopTactics just how important it is for not only coaches, but also all players as well, to be trained in CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation). It was a teammate that administered CPR that saved the life of her former player!

 Online Resources:

Save a Life: View Learn Hands-Only CPR Demo Video (1:10 minutes) Click Here

Learn/Review CPR Online - Free public service supported by the University of Washington School of Medicine – Click Here

American Red Cross First Aid-CPR-AED Classes Click Here

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Sudden Cardio Death

Sudden Cardio Death

Sudden Cardio Death is the number one cause of death among athletes. However, with the proper preparation and response, the chances of a player's survival is great. Organizing and having an automated response system in place is critical.

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| Magnitude | Survival | Screening | Automated Response System |


Recently, a high school player received national media attention when he died after making a game winning shot. This did not only sent shock waves throughout the basketball world, but brought out the concerns of the hidden health dangers faced by young athletes and the importance of coaches being prepared for on the court life threatening emergencies. In that same week, four other basketball related sudden cardio deaths occurred.

In the United States over a 100 sudden cardio deaths occur annually among middle school, high school and college athletes with basketball having the highest risk. That is one every three days. The risk of sudden cardiac death among NCAA Division I male players is 1 in 3,000. The most common cause of sudden cardio related deaths among young athletes is hypertrophic cardiomyopathy a thickening of the heart muscle. This abnormal growth which goes undetected in most cases can cause cardiac arrest during exertion particularly in young African-American players where the risk is 3X greater than Caucasian players. The risk of sudden cardio death is also 3X greater in males than females.

Sudden Cardio Death Survival

The good news is, if CPR is started and defibrillation applied within the first few minutes of sudden cardio death, the chances of survival are great. Automatic External Defibrillator (AED’s) are now required by law in public malls, airports, and casinos. However, 30 states still do not require them in schools. Fortunately, administrators, foundations and communities are realizing the real need for AED’s and providing a growing number of schools with AED’s. Make sure your school or venue has one available. Proper use of an Automatic External Defibrillator (AED) is relatively simple matter and only takes a few minutes to learn. AED’s are practically “dummy” proof. They will only automatically fire (shock) if it is warranted. Note: Coaches’ accessibility after school hours can be a problem that needs to be address.

Screening & Prevention

Since athletic training and competition increases the risk of sudden cardiac death in players with underlying heart disease, the American Heart Association, highly recommends that student/athletes be screened with a careful history, including family history and through physical examination including EKG’s and Echocardiograms. However, testing and screening will not detect all causes of sudden cardio death. Currently, 80% occur with no warning or previous symptoms including family history. Therefore, all coaches must be prepared. This means not only being CPR trained, but also having a plan of action in place.


“Anyone can save a life” Response Model

Note: This emergency response model is applicable to all basketball programs on all levels, youth through professional, not just high schools. If you are conducting a basketball program on any level, it is your responsibility to have an automated response system in place in the event of an emergency.

Minnesota State High School Athletic Association has organized a terrific plan to respond to sudden cardiac emergencies. The program named “Anyone Can Save a Life,” empowers coaches to organize their teams into action in the event of an emergency. It requires coaches to spend 10 minutes at the beginning of each team’s season asking questions of his/her team as to how many have been trained in CPR and would they be willing to assist in the event of an emergency if needed? From this dialog, players are then assigned emergency roles. This creates an automatic response system which allows the coach to remain with the victim without having to give direction.

Automated Response System:

1. At least two players are assigned to call 911.

2. At least two players are assigned to run to the athletic trainer’s office.

3. Two players are assigned to know where the nearest AED device is and to go retrieve it.

4. Other players are assigned to go to a pre-determined location to meet the medics or an ambulance.

After those assignments have been made, the coach fills out a worksheet, which is kept on record in the school’s athletic office. Each team is required to review the assignments periodically during the season.

View/Print  Printable Medical Emergency Response Assignment Form

While this may seem like just one more thing to add to a coach’s workload, most coaches understand the importance of having a plan and a course of action in place. The chances of a positive and successful outcome in the event of an emergency, far outweighs the added responsibility of a coach of having one more thing to do.



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Liability & Responsibility

Liability laws have been enacted to protect athletes and to provide for a safe and healthy environment. Failure to act prudently during a medical emergency is major coaching liability. It is, also, the coach's legal responsibility to be aware of any pre-existing health problems their players may possess. Court decisions have held that coaches have the duty to be aware of all players’ physical fitness, medical conditions, and skill level.

Require written proof of physical exams prior to participation along with evidence of medical insurance. In addition, be sure to create a list of players’ emergency phone numbers and keep it available at all times.

View/Print  Printable Emergency Phone Numbers Form

CAUTION: Health care providers cannot lawfully render treatment to a patient without consent. When a minor is involved, consent must be obtained from a parent or legal guardian. Having a "consent form" on file not only expedites medical care, but also provides some protection against a parent’s claim that emergency care was not authorized. Consent forms should list any allergies to medications along with specifying who to notify in the event of a medical emergency.


Learn More Personal Liabilities Inherited with Coaching


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Common Basketball Injuries

Ankle Injury

Unfortunately basketball injuries do occur. Each year, more than 1.6 million basketball related injuries are treated in hospitals, doctors' offices, clinics, ambulatory surgery centers and hospital emergency rooms. Therefore, all coaches, including assistants, volunteers, and personal trainers, in addition to having a current first aid & CPR certification, should be prepared to treat the following basketball related injuries:

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NOTE: Make sure that a first aid kit and supplies including ice or cold packs are available for every practice and game. Also, make sure that the training or first aid room is accessible. This is especially true during non-school hours.

Head, Neck & Back injuries: Be extremely cautious when it comes to head, neck and back injuries. First aid: take all head, neck and back  injuries seriously. Remove from practice or game immediately and seek medical advice. Requires doctor’s permission before returning to play.

CONCUSSIONS: Recognize, respond to, and minimize the risk of concussion or other serious brain injury. Choices made immediately after a concussion could mean the difference between recovery and permanent injury. Signs and symptoms normally show up along with the injury. However, the severity of the injury may not show up for hours or days later. CDC's "Heads Up" program is a must read for all coaches, paid or volunteer, on every level of the game!  

View  Concussions

Ankle Sprains: First aid: Ice and elevation (internal bleeding). If/when no ice available tie shoe strings tighter. Do not remove shoe. Serious sprains require x-rays.

Knee Twist: First aid: Ice and elevation. Seek medical evaluation.

Bleeding: Cuts especially around the eye brows (Elbows) First aid: Using gloves apply a sterile gauze pad(s) apply direct pressure and elevation.

Bloody Nose: First aid: Have player sitting down, pinch nose (direct pressure) and lean slightly forward using a towel or sterile gauze pad.

Abrasions (floor burns): First Aid: wash with soap and water. Cover loosely.

Dislocations: Fingers, shoulder First aid: immobilize and transport. Do NOT try to relieve dislocation.

Jammed finger or thumb: First aid: apply ice. Tape injured finger to adjacent finger by rapping two thin pieces of tape between joints. Do NOT tape over a joint.

Heat Exhaustion (excessive sweating): First Aid: Cool down and give water. Do not put back into game. Heat exhaustion can progress into life threatening heat stroke.

Muscle Cramps: First aid: apply direct pressure. Once relieve, massage or knead. Adnominal cramps are serious seek medical assistance immediately.

Contusions and Bruises: First Aid: apply ice to injured area (internal bleeding).

Strains & Muscle Pulls: Growing, Thighs, Hamstrings First Aid: Ice

Knocked Out Tooth: First Aid: Jam tooth back into position and transport to dentist. If tooth, cannot be held in place in mouth, put it into cold water or milk. Dental injuries are all too common among young athletes, especially those playing basketball and baseball. According to the National Youth Sports Safety Foundation, more than 3 million teeth will be knocked out in youth sporting events in the United States this year.

Youth Basketball - Minor bumps, falls, and pride injuries: First Aid: Take to water fountain and have them drink or rub some “Holy Water” on injury.

Elastic Bandages: Do not use elastic bandages except for holding on ice bags. Elastic bandages can cut off circulation and form blood clots which can be life threatening.


Do not ever put a player at risk. Most players will insist on playing injured. However, no matter how big the game never play an injured player without a doctor's permission or until they're fully recovered.



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Injury Prevention & Player Safety

Player safety is an awesome responsibility and liability that is inherited with basketball coaching. It includes facility and equipment usage, proper skill & technique instructions, educating players, warming up & cooling down, and providing sufficient player rest during practice or games.

Facilities & Equipment Usage

Learn to be cognizant of potential dangers and hazards around the court area at all times.  Prior to any practice, game or open gym, make sure the facility is safe. Adhere to the first aid adage, "Ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure." Learn to be cognizant of potential dangers and hazards around the court area at all times. Double check to see that all standards are stowed out of the way, balls remained picked up, water is not on the floor, etc.

Make routine equipment inspections. Baskets and boundary lines should not be too close to walls, bleachers, water fountains, or other structures. Goals, as well as the walls behind them, should be padded.

List and post rules & warnings for equipment usage especially in weight rooms.  Have all equipment installed and repaired by qualified personnel only. Make sure that a first aid kit and supplies including ice or cold packs are available for practices as well as games.

Provide Proper Skill & Technique Instruction

Coaches must follow the accepted practices for teaching specific basketball skills and techniques. Drills and other methods that are standard for basketball instruction should be followed. It is especially important that coaches focus on the more hazardous areas of basketball training, such as proper techniques for taking a charge or diving for a loose balls.

Coaches should constantly update their coaching knowledge and expertise by attending classes, seminars, clinics and through online resources such as HoopTactics. If coaching certification is required, keep it up to date.

Player Guidelines for Injury Prevention

The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons offers the following 12 recommendations and ways players can prevent basketball injuries:

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Player Injury Prevention

  1. Always take time to warm up and stretch. Research studies have shown that cold muscles are more prone to injury.

  2. Play only your position and know where other players are on the court to reduce the chance of collisions.

  3. Avoid contact. Do not ever hold, block, push, charge, or trip an opponent. Know the proper technique to "give" a foul at the end of a game.

  4. Use proper techniques for taking charges and diving for loose balls.

  5. Select basketball shoes that fit snugly, offer support, and are non-skid. Cotton socks can absorb perspiration and also give added support to the foot. Be sure to lace up shoes tightly.

  6. Protective knee and elbow pads will protect you from bruises and abrasions. Use ankle braces to reduce the incidence of ankle sprains.

  7. Use a mouth guard to protect your teeth and mouth. If you wear glasses, use safety glasses or glass guards protect your eyes.

  8. Do not wear jewelry or chew gum during practice or games.

  9. Avoid playing tired. Take water breaks and rest as needed. Fatigue not only cuts down on performance, but also drastically increases the chances of injury.

  10. Outdoor courts should be free of rocks, holes, and other hazards. Inside courts should be clean, free of debris, and have good traction.

  11. When playing outside, environmental conditions must be considered. Players should avoid playing in extreme weather or on courts that are not properly lighted in the evening.

  12. Be knowledgeable about first aid and be able to administer it for minor injuries, such as facial cuts, bruises, abrasions, along with minor tendinitis, strains, or sprains.


Proper Warm Up

Starting a strenuous physical activity, such as basketball, without proper warm-up is detrimental to athletic performance and health. The purpose of a warm-up is to prepare for muscular activity, and is not an exhausting activity to bring on fatigue. It should be composed mainly of stretching and light running exercises. It should be of sufficient duration and intensity to adequately prepare players for the physical demands of the game or work-out.

Learn More  Proper Warm-up

Cooling Down

Cooling down and/or stretching after practice can be more beneficial to injury prevention than stretching at the start of practice. Think about ending workouts and practices by making 10 consecutive free throws. For younger players make 10 free throws.

Learn More   Importance of Cooling Down

Sufficient Player Rest

It is imperitive to provide players with ample rest during a game or practice. This is especially true when participating in big games and tournaments. In practice, be sure to to follow strenuous drills with water breaks or light drills such as shooting.

Playing tired not only reduces a player's performance and effectiveness, but more importantly, increases their chance of injury. When tired, players are more apt to lose their balance along with the ability to avoid contact.

A great substitution rule to use in order to encourage players to hard at all times along with preventing players from hitting the fatigue "wall" along with removing any fear or doubt of not getting back into the game:

If players take themselves out of game (by tugging on shirt) they get to put themselves back into the game when ready. If coach makes the substitution, then coach will make decision when to sub back into the game.

Note: when subbing back into the game, player may not necessary go back in for player who replaced them.


Heat Exhaustion & Heat Stroke

Players can overheat by doing too much, too fast or enduring too long. Be vigilant for heavy sweating since it is a major symptom of heat exhaustion and early sign of heat stroke. Heat stroke is the third most common cause of death among athletes. Therefore, it is imperative to remove and immediately cool any player from competition or practice suspected of having any signs of heat exhaustion or stroke. Heat stroke has a 100% survival rate when a player is cooled down within the first ten minutes. However, the mortality rate increases tremendously with time. In just 30 to 40 minutes the survival rate is less than 40%.

With heat exhaustion, once cooled down and feeling better, players will want to resume play or practice. However, do not ever allow them to return. They are finished for the day since continue participation can result in life threating heat stroke.

CAUTION: Coaches can also greatly contribute to player injuries and heat stroke by overtraining players. Do not run a "Boot Camp" by pushing players too hard and running them into the ground the first few days of practice. This will only result in sore, achy muscles that will be detrimental and hinder player performance and learning over the next few weeks. Basketball conditioning is best done over a period time using full court drills. You want your team in the best physical shape at the end of the season when it counts, not the first week of practice.