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Am J Sports Med. 2019 Sep;47(11):2651-2658. doi: 10.1177/0363546519864678. Epub 2019 Aug 7.

Ankle Sprains in the National Basketball Association, 2013-2014 Through 2016-2017.

Author information

Department of Epidemiology, Gillings School of Global Public Health, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA.
University of North Carolina Injury Prevention Research Center, Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA.
Injury Surveillance and Analytics, Real-World Analytics Solutions, IQVIA Durham, North Carolina, USA.
Department of Exercise and Sport Science, College of Arts and Sciences, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA.
The Micheli Center for Sports Injury Prevention, Boston Children's Hospital Boston, Massachusetts, USA.
Division of Sports Medicine, Department of Orthopedics, Boston Children's Hospital Boston, Massachusetts, USA.
Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, Harvard Medical School Boston, Massachusetts, USA.
National Basketball Association New York, New York, USA.
Primary Care Sports Medicine, Hospital for Special Surgery New York, New York, USA.



Ankle sprains are one of the most common injuries in basketball. Despite this, the incidence and setting of ankle sprains among elite basketball players are not well described.


To describe the epidemiology of ankle sprains among National Basketball Association (NBA) players.


Cohort study; Level of evidence, 3.


All players on an NBA roster for ≥1 NBA game (preseason, regular season, or playoffs) during the 2013-14 through 2016-17 seasons were included. Data were collected with the NBA electronic medical record system. All NBA teams used the electronic medical record continuously throughout the study period to record comprehensive injury data, including onset, mechanism, setting, type, and time lost. Game incidence rates were calculated per 1000 player-games and per 10,000 player-minutes of participation, stratified by demographic and playing characteristics.


There were 796 ankle sprains among 389 players and 2341 unique NBA player-seasons reported in the league from 2013-14 through 2016-17. The overall single-season risk of ankle sprain was 25.8% (95% CI, 23.9%-28.0%). The majority of ankle sprains occurred in games (n = 565, 71.0%) and involved a contact mechanism of injury (n = 567, 71.2%). Most ankle sprains were lateral (n = 638, 80.2%). The incidence of ankle sprain among players with a history of prior ankle sprain in the past year was 1.41 times (95% CI, 1.13-1.74) the incidence of those without a history of ankle sprain in the past year (P = .002). Fifty-six percent of ankle sprains did not result in any NBA games missed (n = 443); among those that did, players missed a median of 2 games (interquartile range, 1-4) resulting in a cumulative total of 1467 missed player-games over the 4-season study period.


Ankle sprains affect approximately 26% of NBA players on average each season and account for a large number of missed NBA games in aggregate. Younger players and players with a history of ankle sprain have elevated rates of incident ankle sprains in games, highlighting the potential benefit for integrating injury prevention programs into the management of initial sprains. Research on basketball- and ankle-specific injury prevention strategies could provide benefits.


NBA; National Basketball Association; ankle; ankle sprain; basketball


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