Dodgeball Injury Report

Dodgeball Injury Report

The Questionnaire

We’ve all got our bashes and bruises, our broken fingers and badly twisted knees; but just how injury-prone is dodgeball as a sport? We decided to find out by sending out a questionnaire to as many dodgeballers as possible – of all different levels, nationalities, experience levels – to ask them what dodgeball had done to their body.

At the time of writing, we had 365 responses to our questionnaire on injuries incurred through dodgeball (minus a few dud responses). To my knowledge, this makes it the largest data gathering of its type on dodgeball. Hopefully in future years more national governing bodies and global dodgeball organisations might run more widespread, official reports on their players, but this is a decent starting point to get an idea of the state of injury levels in dodgeball.

For the purposes of this article and within the survey, a “major injury” was described as any injury that forced players to cease playing for any number of weeks. We allowed this broad definition simply because we wanted to find out more information about more fringe injuries incurred; to include a list of all injury types that qualified as “major” would only have been possible if we already knew all the major injuries it was possible to get from dodgeball. 

Still, this entire article should be prefaced with a disclaimer: I am not a data scientist; I am not a doctor; I’m not even that good with Excel spreadsheets. I am a writer, so what I’ve done here is try to write the story of dodgeball injuries as best I can, and highlight those sources of bias as they come up.

If you didn’t get a chance to fill out the injury survey before, the link is still live here

Who are we talking about?

The responders had a clear trend towards cloth dodgeball, with 72.9% (266) reporting that as their primary form; foam took 14.8% (54), with the remaining 12.3% (45) responders reporting a mixture of rubber dodgeballs (in all its various sizes, commonly played across the US). One responder did report playing with no dodgeballs. If they could reach out to explain that one, please do. It keeps me up at night.

46% (168) of responders have played at their highest level, at national level; 29.3% (107) had played at an international level; 17.8% (65) had played at a regional or state level league; and 6.8% (25) had never played more seriously than an informal throwabout. We didn’t collect information on player gender, but rather asked which format players compete in most regularly: 58.1% (212) of players competed in men’s team formats, 34.2% (125) in women’s formats, and 66% in mixed (241); four players compete in all three formats regularly (congratulations you overachievers). As far as the number of years played, the survey managed to be almost completely equal, with a couple spikes around the 3-year, 5-year, and above 10-year marks. 

The modal player in this survey was therefore a national league cloth player, which makes sense when you consider how this survey was conducted. It was shared in various British Dodgeball groups and chats, as well as being posted around on social media and shared to responders from Sweden, USA, Canada, Australia, Switzerland, and beyond; but the majority of responders still came from this initial group of British dodgeballers. 

Since the majority of adult players within the British Dodgeball system play primarily cloth, and the national league system is (at the moment) far larger than the regional system, we’d expect this kind of bias. The good news is that most of our readership aligns with this specific group anyway, so our best data will in all likelihood also be the data that is most relevant to you.

Finger Injuries

When I say there is bias in this questionnaire, maybe even the scope of the questionnaire is thanks to my personal history. Of the five seasons of dodgeball I’ve played in, I have had a broken finger for three of them, and a season affecting injury in four (the fifth is currently ongoing, so touch wood). Because of that, the answers I personally wanted in this report were about what we should be doing to limit finger injuries, because mine are quite mangled and I’m getting a little tired of it.

Just how bad is the problem? Over half – 53% (193) – of responders have had a severe finger injury as a result of playing dodgeball, and more than a third of all responders had specifically broken fingers (33.7%; 123). Other finger injuries reported included major sprains; mallet finger and ruptured tendons; ligament abnormalities, tears and sprains; and one responder who had an elbow sprain in their fingers, somehow (this result was reallocated). 

The most commonly injured fingers were the little fingers on either hand, followed by the right index. The graphic here displays all the frequencies.

This level of finger injury puts us on level with other contact sports, such as rugby and American football, which is understandable – dodgeballers may not throw as large of a mass at each other (aka we’re not chucking our bodies at each other, usually), but we are throwing balls at high speed with the intention of hitting players, rather than having the ball be caught.

What can we do about it? It’s a question that plagues all sports with finger breaks. Taping is used during all kinds of recovery, but some dodgeballers – and indeed, many athletes in other sports – swear by preventative taping, whereby you use tape to avoid the injury in the first place. Buddy taping, or finger sleeves (more popular stateside than in the UK) may provide some benefit, but only if you know which fingers are in danger. 

Based on the above, little-to-ring finger taping would protect the most at-risk finger, but at the risk of losing significant grip, as the little finger would not be able to extend as far. Middle-to-ring finger taping won’t sacrifice much grip, but those fingers aren’t in as much danger as others. Buddy taping on the non-throwing hand may be a good preventative measure without much of a grip tradeoff. 

There’s also the option of joint taping, instead of buddy taping. This technique, commonly seen used by basketball players, protects the finger from bending backwards at the joint. This does limit forward motion (less of a problem in basketball than in dodgeball), but, again, may be a good choice for catchers, depending on how you catch. Fingertip catchers may find joint taping better, as it offers full rounded protection; while scoop catchers (those who catch against their bodies) may find buddy taping the better choice, as it will more effectively protect against the finger bending backwards. Ultimately, it all comes down to player preference. 

It should also be highlighted that just under half of those major finger injuries reported were not breaks: a huge number of muscular injuries were reported. Incorporating more finger workouts into your routine, such as using grip strength training tools, will not only increase your grip strength and throwing power, but may also help avoid future injuries by strengthening those key muscles.

Taping is also only ever going to provide significant support for injuries where the ball bends the finger backwards, aka a ball collision with the inside of the hand. This is the most common cause of finger injuries, but it still only accounts for 46% of them. They may offer a little protection for recoil damage when blocking with a ball, which accounted for a further 37%. But 32.7% were caused by hits to the outside of the hand, and a further 7.1% were from collisions with non-ball objects, such as the court, players, or walls (these percentages add up to more than 100% due to stackability of injuries). So while taping may help, it’s definitely a situational aid, and should not be viewed as a blanket solution to all finger issues.

Ball Type

So if dodgeball as a sport leans towards the more finger-breaky end of the spectrum, what can we do to change the sport? Maybe the ball type. As dodgeball expands and Olympic dreams are pushed to the forefront, discussions around whether we should simplify to one ball type have been rampant. 

Cloth saw 62.4% (166) of its respondents report major injuries, of which 48.1% reported finger injuries. Foam, for its part, had a whopping 87% of respondents report major injuries, with 61.1% reporting finger injuries. And rubber/no-sting had 75.6% of respondents report major injuries, with 64.6% report finger injuries.

So, at a glance, cloth is the least dangerous, and not by an insignificant amount. When you break it down to level of play, the stats continue to tell the same story: cloth is the safer ball type. Even when you ignore the ‘safer’ levels of informal and regional play, cloth comes out as safest. In this table, we compare percentage of players reporting major injuries at each level of play:





33% (5 of 15)

75% (3 of 4)

50% (3 of 6)


36% (17 of 47)

91% (10 of 11)

71% (5 of 7)


71% (79 of 112)

88% (28 of 32)

83% (20 of 24)


71% (65 of 92)

86% (6 of 7)

75% (6 of 8)

“Okay,” I hear you say, “but these aren’t injuries per year, but injuries total across a career – what if the foam players have simply been playing longer?” It’s a fair point. The foam responders in this did tend towards a higher number of years of experience. If we only count those who have been playing dodgeball for five or more years, 90% of foam players had incurred injuries (37 of 41), versus 71% of cloth (111 of 157) and 79% of no sting players (31 of 39). Whether we’re talking new players or old players, national league or regional league, it always comes back to cloth being safer.

Obviously we’d like more data to know if this is the full story – it’s pretty evident that there’s some issues around the informal and regional level data. But as it stands, I can’t find a way of interpreting the broader data in front of me in any other way than that cloth is the safer version of the sport. I theorised back in the article on Cloth vs Foam that foam might be safer, due to the lightness of the ball; now that I’ve got the proof otherwise, I politely eat my cap and rescind that statement.

Non-Hand Injuries

Since the scope mainly covered finger injuries, additional injury data was mainly collected to get an idea of the types of injuries, rather than their frequency. This data was, admittedly, significantly messier, because it involved write-in answers. 13.6% (50) of responders had severely injured an ankle; 16.2% (59) their knees; 11.0% (40) their shoulders; and 7.4% (27) their heads.

Ankle injuries were an even mixture of breaks and sprains, with a handful of torn tendons thrown in. These tended to be caused by poor landings, for example landing on top of the ankle, or in a handful of cases landing on the ball itself. 

Knee injuries mainly constituted ACL and MCL tears. Some of the responders were aware of the cause: usually in these cases, it was poor takeoff technique while dodging. If you twist your body before takeoff, in particular twisting at the knee, you place extra pressure on those muscles in an awkward position, and this increases the risk of tearing. 

Notably, many players wearing kneepads still reported these issues, some to disbelief – ‘how could I injure myself through my kneepads?’ Kneepads are great, but there are factors that make them less efficient. Wet kneepads will not absorb shock as well as dry ones, as the foam becomes less pliable; so for longer days, or sweatier players, consider switching out kneepads when they get too wet. Poorly fitting kneepads or older pairs where the elastic has worn out will slip down, which exposes players to injury. If your kneepads keep slipping, consider wearing long socks to give a buffer at the bottom of the pad, reducing slippage. Also consider buying new kneepads. Most players will only change kneepads when the exterior begins to look tatty, but it’s the interior foam that matter. Depending on the quality of your kneepads, this could last a couple of years, or a couple of months. When was the last time you bought new kneepads?

Shoulder injuries were caused almost universally by overuse while throwing. Warming up your shoulders properly before all matches, even throwabouts, and incorporating stretches into your daily routine can help lessen these injuries. Switching to a less throwing intense position mid-game, or subbing out completely, when you feel you are approaching your limit is also a way you might mitigate damage.

Head injuries were mostly concussions; the cause of these was not always given, but there were multiple reports of headshots causing concussions as well as wall/floor collisions. Two responders also split their chins, and one suffered a split head from a wall collision. This highlights the need for dodgeball to be played in venues where walls are sufficiently far from the court to avoid danger.

Perhaps more concerning were some of the fringe injuries, such as eye injuries. Five responders (so, 1.4%) reported eye problems from playing dodgeball, including scarring at the back of the eye, on the retina, and temporary vision loss. These were all caused by headshots – usually repetitive injuries building up over time, though in one instance just the blunt trauma of a single shot. 

Other Factors that Impact Injury Levels – Or Don’t

Dominant hand did not have a major effect on injury levels, with left-handed and right-handed players experiencing similar levels of injury – ambidextrous players, a tiny sample size, had it worst, as is to be expected from the fact that they were all international players. Men’s league and women’s league players did not suffer noticeably different levels of injury; however, players who played in both women’s and mixed leagues suffered higher rates than those who only competed in women’s (64% versus 79%). 


I’ve been staring at this Excel sheet for months. I have read horrors that I didn’t think were possible in this sport. But this report, in all it’s great length (and I recognise this is a long one), has tried to ignore those and focus on the common issues: not bad luck, not “once in a lifetime”, but consistent, recurring problems that all players should be aware of.

Though initially the injury levels seemed terrifyingly high, once I stopped comparing them to low-contact sports, they fell more in line. Poor kneepad upkeep jumped out as a pretty significant problem in the sport, and while I had high hopes for finger-taping as the future of the sport, the practicalities of it seemed less of a cure-all the more I looked into the types of injuries we were suffering from.

As dodgeball continues to grow, throws will get harder, plays will get quicker, and there’s a worry that these injuries will increase. Rulesets will likely still change in the next decade. Those dealing with questions around ball-type standardisation, headshot rules, and the legality of fingertape, have to consider player safety with all of these. Hopefully, by knowing what’s causing these injuries, we can better protect ourselves.

At the end of the day, the best we can do, as individual players, is take the precautions we individually feel we need. If you drop to the ground a lot, kneepads will be your friends. If you scoop-catch, you might feel it’s worthwhile to trade a little grip strength for your finger protection. If you throw a lot, you’ll need to be stretching and maintaining your shoulder muscles a lot more than some other players. 

There is no blanket solution that works for all players. But I hope, having seen this, you might have a better idea of what works for you.