Is Basketball a Contact Sport? No, But…

is basketball a contact sport

Lots of people say that basketball isn’t a contact sport because there’s not a vicious hit on every play like in American football. However, that doesn’t mean that the game of basketball is an easy sport to play!

I remember driving to the hoop for a layup in high school basketball and taking an elbow to the eye socket from a defender. I remember thinking to myself that anyone who says basketball isn’t a contact sport must have never played it. Here’s more information on why basketball is considered a rough, but not a contact sport.

Why Basketball Isn’t Considered a Contact Sport?

Basketball isn’t considered a contact sport because excessive contact doesn’t happen the majority of the time. When too much contact does occur in basketball, the officials call a foul and the team and player are penalized.

For the sake of comparison, let’s talk about when an ice hockey player slams an opposing player into the boards. A penalty isn’t called and the play is considered a legal “check”. This is why hockey is considered a collision sport.

When a basketball player sets a screen too hard and it sends a player flying, it’s called an illegal screen and results in a possible flagrant foul being called as well. This example shows why we can’t consider basketball a full-contact sport. The rules of the game prohibit certain types of contact.

Another reason basketball isn’t considered a full-contact sport has to do with the types of common injuries that occur in the game. While the risk of injury in basketball is high, most of the injuries that happen on the court aren’t too severe. 

For example, gruesome head injuries like concussions are very common in full-contact sports like American football, boxing, and wrestling. Concussions can happen in basketball, but it’s a rarity. 

Common Injuries in Basketball

All of the jumping, cutting, shooting, and fouling in basketball can lead to different kinds of injuries. Here is a list of the most common injuries in the game:

  • Ankle Sprains – This is probably the most common basketball injury. It usually happens when a player lands on his foot the wrong way and ends up twisting his ankle. A bad sprain can be especially painful and have lots of swelling and discoloration. A basketball player can be out for several weeks with a severe ankle sprain.
  • Cuts or Abrasions– These usually happen when two players collide as they’re going for a loose ball. It can also happen when a player is fouled and the defender inadvertently cuts him with his fingernails.
  • Wrist Injury– Basketball consists of lots of repetitive movements like shooting and passing. This can lead to wrist or forearm strains, sprains, or an annoyingly painful condition called tendonitis. Luckily, most of these injuries can be treated with NSAIDs like ibuprofen or aspirin, and lots of rest and icing.
  • Knee Injuries – All of the running and jumping is pretty hard on the knees of basketball players. Unfortunately, knee injuries are quite common in the game and can range from a deep contusion to a torn ACL or MCL. This is why you’ll see lots of players wearing knee braces on the court.

The Types of Contact Common in Basketball

Though basketball isn’t considered a contact sport, it’s still a very physical game and may be considered a limited-contact sport by some folks. Here are some examples of the types of physical contact that occur during a normal basketball game.

  • Hand Check– this is when a defensive player puts his hand on the offensive player’s back or shoulder. A foul is usually not called for this unless it’s considered excessive by the referees.
  • Posting Up- this happens when an offensive player (usually a forward or center) uses his legs, shoulders, and butt, to get a better position over a defender. Posting up is considered part of the game of basketball, so a foul won’t be called unless a player does it violently.
  • Elbowing– It’s pretty common to see players throwing elbows on the court, especially when trying to bring down a tough rebound. Referees will normally call a foul for elbowing.
  • Screens – We mentioned screens earlier in this article. This happens when an offensive player tries to get in the way of a defender. The goal of a screen is to clear an open path for the ball handler.

Types of Fouls

In basketball, too much contact or the wrong kind of contact will result in a foul call. Here are the types of fouls that occur on a basketball court:

Personal Fouls

These are the most common types of fouls called during a basketball game. A player can be called for a personal foul if he is caught tripping, elbowing, holding, blocking, or charging by the officials. Personal fouls are split into two categories: offensive fouls and defensive fouls.

The two main examples of offensive fouls include an illegal screen and a charge. During an illegal screen, an offensive player either sets the screen with too much force or sets the screen with his feet moving. During a charge, the ball handler runs over a defender that has already established his defensive position.

Defensive fouls are the most commonly called personal fouls. They are called when a player on the defense pushes, blocks, trips, or hacks a member of the offense. 

When a defensive player fouls an offensive player who is in the act of shooting, the offensive player is awarded two free throws. This is called a shooting foul.

Flagrant Fouls

Flagrant fouls aren’t called very often, but when they are it’s for a serious offense. When a referee calls a flagrant foul, it’s because a player used excessive force or contact. The penalty for a flagrant foul gives the opposing team two free throws and possession of the basketball.

In the NBA, there are two types of flagrant fouls: a level 1 and a level 2. Level 2 is the worst type of flagrant foul and the player is ejected from the game. 

Technical Fouls

While flagrant fouls are called for excessive contact, technical fouls are called on players and coaches for unsportsmanlike conduct. If a player or coach is verbally abusive towards an official, usually he’ll be “T-ed Up”.

The penalty for a technical foul is that the other team gets one free throw plus possession of the ball. Technical fouls are called much more frequently than flagrant fouls.

Other Sports That Are Considered Contact Sports

The term contact sport is somewhat confusing. There are three different levels of contact sports: Full Contact, Semi-Contact, and Limited-Contact.

Now that we’ve established that basketball isn’t a full-contact sport, you’re probably wondering what sports are considered full-contact sports. Here is a brief list:

  • Boxing
  • American Football
  • Wrestling
  • Judo
  • Taekwondo
  • Karate

You may also be wondering what other sports are considered limited-contact sports like basketball. Here is a brief list of those sports:

  • Volleyball
  • Baseball
  • Handball
  • Softball
  • Lacrosse
  • Polo
  • Squash
  • Soccer

List of Non-Contact Sports

In non-contact sports, athletes do not have any type of physical contact with each other. Here is a list of those sports:

  • Golf
  • Bowling
  • Tennis
  • Cricket
  • Snooker
  • Billards
  • Curling
  • Bodybuilding
  • Diving
  • Gymnastics
  • Rowing
  • Darts
  • Swimming
  • Auto Racing
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