Managing Common Basketball-Related Injuries

Author(s): 
Michael K. Lowe, DPM, FACFAS

   Accordingly, I recommend that in high school and/or college, the athlete should replace his basketball shoes every month at least, due to the fatigue of the midsole material that subsequently ceases to protect the foot from the external forces of shock impact of running, cutting, and jumping. On the Utah Jazz, I recommend that players change shoes at least every two weeks and that the larger players (250-300 lbs.) change their shoes at least weekly, if not sooner.

   A positive secondary byproduct of frequent shoe change is that of protective influence of shoe gear on the foot and ankle stability in response to the external forces. As the player accumulates hours of wear on the shoe, the leather or synthetic uppers slowly begin to stretch and/or fatigue in response to the repetitive rotational forces as well as the considerable moisture buildup that occurs. Also, midsole material slowly deforms or compresses in response to the repetitive ballistic starting and stopping of the workout or game. As these external forces to the shoe continue, the rotational movement of the foot within the shoe slowly increases in range of motion and velocity, and thus slowly begins to decrease in its ability to diminish the external forces to the foot. Indeed, worn out shoe gear is certainly one of the great causes of metatarsal stress fractures and plantar fasciitis.

Addressing Common Ankle Sprains

The most common injury over my many years in the NBA is the lateral inversion injury to the ankle. Even with all of the proper use of shoe gear, taping or ankle supports, inversion injuries still are a frequent occurrence in basketball. In my 34 seasons with the Utah Jazz, I have seen many ankle sprains. However, I am still impressed that in those 34 seasons, not one surgical repair has been required or performed to get the injured player back to full speed again.

   The sooner that “RICE” can begin, the quicker the player is back to full recovery. This also consists of rest until the athlete is pain-free to proprioceptive strengthening exercises. Compression wrap of the injured ankle is also very important in keeping the post-injury edema reduced to allow for the benefits of the ice and elevation of the affected ankle. The quicker one addresses post-injury edema and applies a compressive wrap to the ankle, the sooner the player will begin to recover and may initiate his strengthening proprioceptive exercises. We always address these injuries immediately as opposed to waiting until the next morning. Accordingly, one does not see the presence of “woody” edema with the rapid treatment of injury.

   If the athlete is tender enough, one should place a cast boot on the athlete in the training room and have him or her use crutches. Crutch usage will typically end in 24 to 48 hours and the cast boot will come off when the athlete can bear full weight without pain, usually two to four days post-injury (thus enabling range of motion to begin to leg muscles and the ankle joint with continued daily physical therapy and compression wraps).
Proprioceptive deficits are frequent post-injury findings of ankle inversion injuries. The player must have a return of strength and proprioception, or his ability to perform highly ballistic movement with that ankle becomes unlikely. Secondly and just as important, without strength and proprioception, the rate of re-injury of the same ankle is significant.8,9

   Dr. Lowe is the team podiatrist for the Utah Jazz. He is a Fellow and Past President of the American Academy of Podiatric Sports Medicine. Dr. Lowe is a Diplomate of the American Board Of Podiatric Surgery and a Fellow of the American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons. He was the podiatrist for the 2002 Winter Olympics and the 2002 Para-Olympics.

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