NCAAB Injury Report & Insights (2024)

College Basketball Injuries

Injuries occur at all levels of college basketball, but there’s more urgency when a college basketball player goes down to injury. For one thing, top players in college are holding out hopes of making it in the NBA, and a serious injury, or even a poorly timed one, can jeopardize their spot in the NBA Draft and cost them millions of dollars.

The college season is also shorter than an NBA season, and players are only in college for a limited time—four years is the standard, although most prospects stay much less time, some as little as one season. A player who misses 10 games in the NBA will still play more than 70 in that season, while 10 games is a quarter of a college season and a significant portion of a player’s career with the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA).

In collegiate basketball, coaches have to treat NCAAB injuries carefully. They need to weigh the team’s needs with the player’s potential NBA earning power down the line. That may mean slowing down the timeline for a return.

The season also has a one-and-done tournament to determine a champion, so an injured player late in the year can be the difference between winning the championship outright and going home early.

We’ll discuss the various types of college basketball injuries, injury rates in college, and how different injuries are treated.

The Most Common College Basketball Player Injuries

Basketball players spend much of the game running and jumping, which can cause repetitive stress injuries on legs, ankles and feet. Also, when a player jumps, he has to land, and in rebounding and shooting, there are often other players nearby, also jumping and landing, so landing awkwardly is another major source of injury.

As a result, leg injuries are more common than upper body injuries in the National Collegiate Athletic Association. One study found that 60 percent of all college basketball injuries are to the lower extremities. According to that study, basketball players have a regular season injury rate of approximately once every 100 games. That’s more than twice the likelihood of getting injured in practice (about once every 230 practices). Of course, teams practice far more often than they play games—more than 90 practices a season and up to 40 games—so the raw number of practice injuries is roughly the same as the number in games.

Another study found that more than half of all basketball injuries in college are the result of contact between players, while another 25 percent come from “other contact” (usually falls). The rest are non-contact injuries.

Basketball Knee Injuries

Knee injuries are not the most common injury in college basketball, but they are the most severe. What researchers term “knee internal derangements” (a combination of torn ligaments, torn cartilage, sprains and fractures) are the source of most injuries that cause players to miss more than 10 days of competition.

Serious knee injuries, such as internal derangements, are more likely than any other type to be non-contact, where a player lands badly or plants and turns, causing damage.

Sprains are the least severe of the derangements and can cause a player to miss a few days or a few weeks, depending on the severity. Teams will set a timetable for return after evaluating the injury.

Torn cartilage, often called a torn meniscus, can be season-ending and often requires surgery. Torn knee ligaments, most often the ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) can keep a player out for 10 months and nearly always requires surgery and extensive rehab.

There’s also knee soreness, which affects nearly every player. It may be due to normal wear and tear, or it could be a sign that a more serious problem is brewing. The team’s training staff needs to evaluate any soreness and determine what, if any, precautionary measures need to be taken.

Ankle and Foot Injuries

Usually, ankle injuries aren’t as severe as knee problems, but they are the most common problem in college hoops. More than one in every four college basketball injuries is an ankle ligament sprain. Ankle sprain rates are the same for practice and games, and about the same for male and female college players.

About 45 percent of ankle injuries come from landing and 30 percent from cutting or twisting.

Sprains are graded based on severity, and the least severe ones can keep a player out for a few days, or the player may choose to tape the foot up tighter and return to the floor immediately. More severe sprains can keep a player out for weeks.

While it may not have the potential to be season-ending, a sprained ankle can certainly be season-altering. The recurrence rate is 70 percent, meaning that once you hurt your ankle, it’s probably going to happen again.

Foot problems are not quite as common in college basketball as in the pros, because the season is shorter. Many foot problems are overuse injuries such as plantar fasciitis or stress fractures to the foot or ankle. Both can keep a player off the floor for weeks at a time.

Hand and Wrist Injuries

Hand and wrist injuries often are caused by the ball, as a finger gets jammed or bent in the wrong direction while rebounding.

Hand injuries are twice as common in male players as females and more than three times as likely to happen during a game than in practice, perhaps indicating that the ferocity with which players go for rebounds may be a factor.

Wrist injuries can also be the result of rebounding or from bracing in a fall.

Hand and wrist injuries were found to be less likely to be severe than other types of injuries and the study concluded that they “did not extensively limit participation.” Although fractured fingers and wrists, as well as torn thumb ligaments do sideline a player for an extended time and may require surgery.

Foot Stress Fractures

A stress fracture is a broken bone, but it’s one that doesn’t get caused by a one-time incident, like a fall or being struck by something. Instead, it develops gradually, over time. It is an overuse injury and comes from running and jumping over and over again, every day for months. Female players are more likely to get a stress fracture in the foot, while male players are more likely to get one in their ankle.

Stress fractures are on the rise, as players get larger and jump higher, causing more repetitive stress on their lower bodies. According to one analysis, running puts a stress on the foot of 2.8 times a player’s body weight, while jumping and landing put a stress of 4.5 times their weight.

Stress fractures can sometimes require surgery and, depending on the severity, can sideline a player for months—about 20 percent of them end up being season-ending. Also, the recurrence rate is more than 20 percent.

Muscle Strains

Muscle strains are extremely common in college basketball, so much so that virtually every player has some type of strain most of the time. As a result, they often go unreported, since the vast majority of them do not cause any missed time.

Basically, if you stretch a muscle past its limits or put too much of a load on the muscle, you can strain it. It often comes with pain and swelling. It’s a soft tissue injury, meaning joints and bones aren’t involved. So many don’t require surgery or extensive time off. Although severe strains can lead to missed time, and playing through pain can make a player more susceptible to some other type of injury, since they may be favoring the strained muscle.

Eye Injuries

Every season, some player ends up donning the clear plastic protective mask for a few games. This is often due to some type of eye injury. When a shot is missed, players underneath the basket all try to get to the ball. Arms and hands flail, and it’s possible to get hit in the face. The most common eye injuries are eye pokes from errant fingers (a defender swiping at the ball to knock it out of an opponent’s hand can also result in an eye poke) or an orbital injury. Usually, an elbow to the eye is the source of the orbital injury. The orbital is the round, hollow section of the skull where your eye resides. It’s possible to damage that portion of the bone.

The masks can help prevent reinjury, and aggravation of the injury, since the pain often lasts an extended period, or can just give a player confidence after suffering an injury that can be scary.


Throwing elbows or falling to the floor can also result in head injuries. Concussions are not as prevalent as in actual contact sports like football and hockey, but physical play has increased in college basketball over the years, and so have rates of concussions.

The incidence of concussions is higher than in soccer, according to one study, and one in every 30 injuries in college basketball comes from concussions.

It’s estimated that 30 to 50 percent of basketball concussions go unreported, and delays in reporting can make it more likely that the injury will keep a player out for more than a week.

Other Common Injuries

There are a number of other injuries that college basketball players could suffer, ranging from minor to serious. Elbows and contact with other players can result in dental injuries, such as broken or loose teeth, or broken noses—another reason a player may don a mask.

Shoulder injuries aren’t as common as in sports where throwing at high velocity is frequent, like baseball, but they can occur, either from overuse or contact. Given the height and overall size of some players, back problems often develop.

Many injuries go unreported, at least to the public, or unspecified. Unlike pro leagues, college teams, for the most part, are not required to report all injuries suffered by members of the team. A large and growing percentage of coaches have decided that knowledge of exactly who is hurt and what bothers them could give opponents a competitive advantage, so injury reports in college often have a great deal of gamesmanship involved in what’s said and what’s not.

Risk of Injury by College Basketball Team Position

Contact injuries, like falls, elbow strikes and other collisions, are made worse when bigger bodies are involved. And larger, heavier players put more stress on their body parts through overuse.

As a result, men’s players suffer more contact injuries and repetitive stress injuries than female players, with the size of the players being a major reason why. Similarly, positions manned by larger players are more likely to produce injuries. Centers and power forwards are more likely to have foot problems, and, since big men are more likely to be placed near the basket, where the fiercest battles for rebounds occur, the rate of injury due to contact is higher based on injury trends for these positions.

Treatments for College Basketball Injuries

There are usually only a dozen or so players on the average college basketball team, but it still takes a large training and sports medicine staff to see to all their needs for treating and preventing injury. As we said earlier, just about every player on the team has some type of soreness or strain all the time. Often, before games, while some players on practicing shooting, you’ll see a large portion of the team sitting on the floor with trainers, stretching with bands or getting special treatment as they try to get to 100 percent to play that day.

Here are some common tools training staffs use to handle collegiate injuries.

Taping and Strapping

Since the early days of basketball, players have used tape. Taping an ankle, knee, wrist or fingers can help provide support to muscles and joints that have nagging injuries. There have been advances in normal athletic tape, and now strapping tape and other specialized tape products offer even more support. Some, like Kinesio tape (the black tape you’ll often see players wear in strips at various areas on their body) can help increase blood flow and reduce inflammation.

EPAT Therapy

Extracorporeal Pulse Activated Technology, or EPAT, is a high-tech way to help treat injuries to tendons, ligaments and even torn muscles. It can relieve pain, increase blood flow and help keep injured players on the floor. The therapy bombards an injured body part with high-energy sound waves.

It isn’t an alternative to surgery, but it can be an alternative to injections and anti-inflammatory drugs.

Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Medications

Nonsteroidal Anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are any drugs that reduce swelling and inflammation anywhere in the body. Ibuprofin (Advil) and acetaminophen (Tylenol) are examples of oral anti-inflammatories available over the counter. More power prescription drugs can also be used, either orally or with injections. According to one survey, one in four college athletes were currently taking NSAIDs for an unspecified injury or reason. Of athletes who said they were feeling pain, 46 percent of female college athletes and 38 percent of males were currently taking NSAIDs. 70 percent of women and 61 percent of men bought their own over-the-counter, while the rest got medication from the training staff.

Another cross-sectional study at Portland State University reported that 52% of male athletes and 48% of female athletes at the school were taking NSAIDs during the study period for an unspecified injury, unspecified ailment or for other personal reasons.

Physical Therapy

Physical therapy is something that all basketball players go through, at some level. Stretching exercises are a form of PT that has been shown to be extremely useful in avoiding injury. Obviously, athletes recovering from a serious injury will have more extensive physical therapy to help strengthen damaged areas and muscles that may have been weakened from not going through normal workouts. PT staff and athletic trainers will also help treat any areas that may need special attention due to soreness or a recurring problem.

A lower-leg injury or lower-body injury often requires some form of physical therapy for an extended period of time. Stretching and keeping limber before any physical activity, such as playing a basketball game, are the current recommendations for injury prevention as it has been shown to greatly decrease the rate of injury (both practice injuries and game injuries) in players.


Surgery is an effective way to repair many forms of injury, but because it is invasive, damages healthy tissue in order to get to the injured area, carries a risk of infection, and has an often lengthy recovery period, it is generally considered a last resort for college players. With only four years to compete, a season-ending surgery can wipe out a large portion of the time a player will be able to exhibit his skills to NBA teams. It also means a team will be without the player for an extended time, sometimes for the entire season. Teams that loss a player for the entirety of the regular season are often at a big disadvantage.

Foot surgery, surgeries to repair a shoulder injury, ankle injury or knee injuries are the most commonly seen surgeries in the NCAAB. Facial injuries can sometimes require surgery as well.

Where to Find the NCAAB Injury Report

Unlike the NBA and most other professional leagues in various sports, the NCAA does not have an official injury report or any rules on what teams must report any key injuries during the basketball season, which makes it really difficult to spot patterns in injury rates or a team’s injury rate ratios. Part of this is due to privacy concerns for college students, some of whom may be minors, and also the sport’s often contentious relationship with gambling.

Many teams will release injury information, often through their social media accounts or tell beat writers who cover their team, but it is on a voluntary basis. Some teams only report season-ending injuries, others only report certain injuries in order to try to get a competitive advantage over upcoming opponents.

While there is the National Collegiate Athletic Association Injury Surveillance System, participation in this web-based sports injury surveillance system is entirely voluntary, and rarely gives a good overview of current injuries. It mostly provides National Collegiate Athletic Association teams with various injury prevention initiatives and a medically recommended timetable for return for some common injuries, such as a lower-leg injury, knee surgery or many other common basketball injuries. Because it is voluntary, it doesn’t even provide bettors with accurate competition injury rates or preseason injury rates.

That is why in order to avoid having to do the legwork to get the scoop on injury news you can go ahead and check OddsTrader’s injury tracker.

How College Basketball Injuries Affect Betting

Obviously, injuries in basketball players can have a major impact on a team’s likelihood to win an upcoming college basketball game, so bettors will need to have the most up-to-date injury reports. This type of information should also be considered when looking at the ATS records, power rankings or even OddsTrader’s computer-generated college basketball picks.

Since futures bets, on which teams will make the Final Four or win conference tournaments or the national championship, are popular, gamblers will need to find a way to predict the likelihood of an injury and also evaluate what backups a team has on hand to survive a serious injury to a key player.

Frequently Asked Questions About College Basketball Injuries

Which college basketball team has had the most player injuries?

Every college basketball fan thinks that their team has the most injuries, but the truth is every team suffers from them and every player has some type of pain they are playing through. Injuries are part of the game, regardless of what team you’re following.

What is the main cause of most college basketball injuries?

There are two main causes of college basketball injuries. One is repeated stress, particularly on the lower extremities. The constant running, jumping and landing can war down body parts, leading to overuse injuries, or tired legs, which make an injury more likely. The second main cause is player contact. This physical contact, either getting struck by a player or knocked to the floor, can cause a variety of injuries. Not everyone thinks of college basketball as a high-risk contact sport, particularly in comparison to other National Collegiate Athletic Association sports, but in truth, it is riskier than people often assume.

How can college basketball injuries affect a player’s career?

The most serious injuries could affect a player’s ability to run and jump at the same level as they did before getting hurt. Unfortunately, some players don’t make it all the way back from an injury, and some injuries are career-threatening. Getting injured near the end of your final season, when you are about to start the process of preparing for the NBA Draft and showcasing yourself for teams, can also jeopardize a pro career.

Has a college basketball player ever had a career-ending injury?

Unfortunately, a small percentage of college players suffer career-ending injuries each year, often a severe lower-leg injury or a shoulder injury. It could be a player who isn’t likely to play in the pros who suffers a season-ending injury in his senior year, or it could be an injury so severe that the player never makes it back. About 10 years ago, Texas A&M’s Derrick Roland was expected to play in the NBA, but he broke both bones in his leg during his senior year and never played again due to an eligibility issue.

Are college basketball players more likely to be injured than NBA players?

College players are less likely to be injured than NBA players for a number of reasons. Players are smaller—since pro players continue to grow and add muscle as they advance their careers. Also, players are younger. A 35-year-old NBA veteran is more likely to hurt himself than a 21-year-old college senior. And seasons are far shorter in college, so the overall wear and tear are less.

NCAAB Injury Report & Insights (2024)
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