Objective: To review 16 years of National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) injury surveillance data for women's basketball and to identify potential areas for injury prevention initiatives.
Background: The number of colleges participating in women's college basketball has grown over the past 25 years. The Injury Surveillance System (ISS) has enabled the NCAA to collect and report injury trends over an extended period of time. This has allowed certified athletic trainers and coaches to be more informed regarding injuries and to adjust training regimens to reduce the risk of injury. It also has encouraged administrators to make rule changes that attempt to reduce the risk of injury.
Main results: From 1988-1989 through 2003-2004, 12.4% of schools across Divisions I, II, and III that sponsor varsity women's basketball programs participated in annual ISS data collection. Game and practice injury rates exhibited significant decreases over the study period. The rate of injury in a game situation was almost 2 times higher than in a practice (7.68 versus 3.99 injuries per 1000 athlete-exposures, rate ratio = 1.9, 95% confidence interval = 1.9, 2.0). Preseason-practice injury rates were more than twice as high as regular-season practice injury rates (6.75 versus 2.84 injuries per 1000 athlete-exposures, rate ratio = 2.4, 95% confidence interval = 2.2, 2.4). More than 60% of all game and practice injuries were to the lower extremity, with the most common game injuries being ankle ligament sprains, knee injuries (internal derangements and patellar conditions), and concussions. In practices, ankle ligament sprains, knee injuries (internal derangements and patellar conditions), upper leg muscle-tendon strains, and concussions were the most common injuries.
Recommendations: Appropriate preseason conditioning and an emphasis on proper training may reduce the risk of injury and can optimize performance. As both player size and the speed of the women's game continue to increase, basketball's evolution from a finesse sport to a high-risk contact sport also will continue. The rates of concussions and other high-energy trauma injuries likely will increase. The NCAA ISS is an excellent tool for identifying new risk factors that may affect injury rates and for developing consistent injury definitions in order to improve the research and provide a source of clinically relevant data.