Managing Common Basketball-Related Injuries

Michael K. Lowe, DPM, FACFAS

   This is even more amazing when you consider Stockton did this with a 6’1”, 175-lb. body, always playing against much larger bodies.

Injury Prevalence And Professional Basketball Players: What You Should Know

Both talent and injury determine the longevity of players in the National Basketball Association but oftentimes, neither is in the control of the player. Those players who play the longest in the NBA have a synergistic combination of talent and ability to stay away from career-ending injury. The NBA career longevity database provided by the NBA reveals an interesting view of the “standard” NBA player:2

Center: 8.8 years
Forward: 7.8 years
Guard: 7.3 years

   The average number of years played by position certainly was related to the amount of mileage the player would encounter in his position.

   Those players who had the fewest injuries per year were also the players to have the longest career longevity.

Played 1-5 years 1.5 injuries per year.
Played 6-7 years 1.3 injuries per year.
Played 8-10 years 1.2 injuries per year.
Played 13-20 years 0.9 injuries per year.3

   The NBA players reportedly missed nearly 65 percent more games due to foot-related injuries in 2009 than they did in 1989.4 It is also interesting to note that the injury rate among NBA players is twice that experienced by the collegiate player (but the NBA player also plays twice as many games in a season).5

   Injury prevention is thus very important to both the player’s career and the team’s investment in the player. Some injuries are not as preventable as others. Even some of the acute injuries can be influenced by wise preparation of player conditioning and strengthening of weak areas of need. Improving flexibility, appropriate shoe gear selection and timely replacement of the shoes, and the use of orthotics help in functional weight distribution of foot and ground reaction forces.

How To Remedy Metatarsal Stress Fractures

There are several examples of preventative medical care that can be beneficial for basketball players.

   The return to activity of the athlete from the offseason (or time off for recovery from injury) and strengthening to a competitive level of participation requires a certain level of stress changes to bone, ligaments and cartilage. Wolff’s law dictates that these structures will adapt to the application of eternal forces to bone, ligaments and cartilage, but only at a certain rate. When these forces exceed the ability of bone to adapt, negative changes begin to occur within the structure. This creates an eventual fault or, in the case of bone, a stress fracture. One can reduce the risk of a stress fracture by balancing a certain level of weightbearing loading in the offseason with the need to recover from the season’s stress level as well.

   Linear running in stable running shoes provides both aerobic conditioning and the needed weightbearing to the joints. Most NBA players continue to play basketball in the offseason but are strongly encouraged to avoid playing in the neighborhood “pickup” games, in which someone may try to prove his manhood by taking the “NBA player” to the out of control limits of the game.6

   Of all the fractures that occur in the NBA, the metatarsal stress fracture is the most frequent. This is followed in frequency by tibial stress fractures and navicular stress fractures. These are truly overuse injuries. These are injuries which preventative medicine can have a great impact on both competitively and fiscally (money lost to the team by not having the player available).

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