Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Extreme slam dunk injuries

This ring almost cost a teen his right ring finger (Source)

For today's post, I carefully sifted through the scientific literature (er, well, I did a search with Google Scholar) for reports discussing a particular form of sports injury: the ill-fated slam dunk. Here are some of the ways dunking a basketball has resulted in fairly serious trauma:

  • A teenager playing half-court pick-up jumped for a slam dunk, collided with another player while in flight, lost his balance, and tried to catch the rim to avoid falling. The tip of his thumb got caught in the net and was torn off as he fell. Fortunately, surgeons were able to re-attach it.
  • When he was in 6th grade, NBA player Gerald Green lost a substantial section of his right ring finger when a ring he was wearing caught on the hoop he was dunking on. This ripped open his finger around the ring, severing skin (degloving) and the tendons beneath. The injury was so bad his finger had to be amputated.
  • Another teen caught his skull ring in the net while trying to dunk a ball during gym class. Although the skin was ripped off around the ring, the underlying flesh wasn't irreparably damaged. A nerve had to be sutured back together though. The finger ended up healing well.
  • A 23-year-old playing in a pick-up game in Harlem fractured his hand, wrist, and ankle (spiral fibula fracture) after falling while going for a drunk. He was bumped while in the air, causing him to lose his balance and fall sideways onto the concrete. The hand and wrist were placed in a cast, but the ankle was so badly mangled it had to be repaired via surgery. After removing some damaged flesh (debridement), a surgeon put the bone back into place using a plate, a bolt, and a couple of screws.


Hsieh CH, Lin GT. 2006. Thumb amputation resulting from an attempted basketball slam-dunk. Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine 16(3):274-275. [First page]

McClelland SJ, Fithian DC. 1988. Ipsilateral carpal, metacarpal, and ankle fractures resulting from an attempted basketball slam-dunk. A case report. American Journal of Sports Medicine 16(5):544-546.

Pynn BR, Bartkiw TP, Clarke HM. 1997. Ring avulsion injuries and the basketball player. British Journal of Sports Medicine 31(1):72-74. [Full text]


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