Managing Common Basketball-Related Injuries

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How To Treat Navicular And Jones Fractures

Both of these injuries typically receive screw fixation, which provides both compression of the fracture site and internal stability for future stresses applied to the foot. If they are repeat injuries, they typically require bone grafting with new screw fixation. The use of a bone stimulator is always in use as well for NBA players since time needed for proper healing is very important in getting the player back on the court to play basketball again. The bone stimulator may not be available for the high school or college athlete due to insurance restraints.

This certainly brings the great caution of not letting the surgeon be talked into or pressured (usually by the athlete’s parents) into letting the athlete back into weightbearing workouts/competition before he has adequate bone maturation and healing to again withstand the stresses of the sport that the fracture site will experience.

Michael K. Lowe, DPM, FACFAS

Given the considerable demands pro basketball players place on their lower extremities and the increase of missed games due to lower extremity-related injuries, this author emphasizes keys to preventative care to reduce the risk of ankle sprains and metatarsal stress fractures.

Basketball is a very physically demanding sport. At the professional level, it has progressed in my 34 years with the Utah Jazz from a finesse sport to an almost rugby-like sport with tremendous size, speed and strength built into most all of today’s players. Taking a charge from a driving Karl Malone at full speed can be a near death experience for those who are unprepared. (Ask Isiah Thomas, who ended up in the hospital with a large facial laceration after getting blasted by Malone in a game at the Utah Delta Center.)

   The need to keep the players healthy is the first approach in professional basketball. This includes proper diet, weight control, flexibility, proprioception, physical strength (which includes plyometrics and weight training) and proper endurance.

   Basketball is primarily an anaerobic sport with multiple short spurts of intense activities.

   Basketball has more side-to-side cutting, stopping, sudden acceleration and vertical leaping/jumping than it does linear running. The multiple stops, jumps and changes of direction that are required during a game is not something that the physical body of muscle, ligaments, cartilage and bone can adapt or accommodate to in just a month of preseason training. It takes months of concerted effort to strengthen bone, ligaments and cartilage to the stresses required of the repetitive forces to the athlete’s joints.

   Even then, with all of the proper training and hopefully positive accommodation, certain body types (i.e. Yao Ming with a height of 7’6”) cannot handle the stress load of the 82 regular-season games, plus pre- and postseason games.

   The college athlete plays about 30 games during the season and then postseason may take him or her up to a total of 40 games in a season. Alternately, the professional basketball player will play eight preseason games, 82 regular-season games and if he makes it all the way to the NBA Finals, will play another possible 28 games (if each series went to seven games) for a total of well over 100 games during the season. There are very few physical bodies that can stand up to this level of stress loading to joints, tendons and ligaments, let alone the occasional laceration or lost tooth from flying elbows that occur each and every game.

   It is even more amazing when you consider these numbers for John Stockton, a member of the National Basketball Association Hall of Fame and a gold medalist with the “Dream Team” in the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona, Spain.

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