In a sport where a crossover dribble is often known as an 'ankle breaker', it's no surprise that foot injuries are common amongst basketball players. While modern basketball shoes afford a great deal of protection to the feet, they are not perfect, and the stresses and strains of such a high-intensity sport can cause a range of injuries and conditions in the feet and ankles. That's not to say you should say goodbye to the court; podiatrists can offer effective treatment and pain relief for practically any foot-related mishap, including the following common basketball injuries:
The curse of many a sportsperson, ankle sprains occur when the ligaments which support the bones and muscles of the ankle become damaged or torn. Often caused by sudden changes in pace or direction, ankle sprains can cause intense pain and swelling and may lead to chronic ankle instability if left untreated.
Fortunately, podiatrists are well acquainted with this common injury and can offer numerous treatments. Early rehabilitation is critical, and you will be required to rest the affected ankle until the ligaments heal sufficiently. Treatments for ankle pain include oral painkillers, corticosteroid injections and ice packs, and compression bandages to control swelling. Podiatrists can also aid with ankle sprain rehabilitation, recommending courses of low-impact physical therapy and strength building exercises -- these serve to get the ankle back to fighting strength as quickly as possible and minimise any permanent loss of mobility.
More properly known as a metatarsophalangeal joint sprain, turf toe is characterised by damage to the connective tissue between the big toe and the foot, and is caused by hyperextension of the big toe. This hyperextension often occurs suddenly and painfully and can be caused by tackles, falls or simply breaking into a sprint. Symptoms include gradually worsening pain and loss of mobility in the affected toe, and an audible 'pop' can often be heard at the moment the injury is sustained.
Podiatrists generally treat this injury conservatively, and provide pain relief and stability while the connective tissue is allowed to heal. Medications and ice packs are used to control pain (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen are often prescribed, as they serve to reduce swelling as well as pain). The damaged big toe is often taped or bandaged to the adjacent toe, allowing both toes to share the strains of physical movement while the damaged toe heals. In more severe cases, the toe may need to be fully immobilised with a brace or small cast.
While fractures of the various bones in the feet are common in basketball players, most can be treated rather simply. However, Jones fractures are a little more awkward -- they occur in the fifth metatarsal, a bone that lies close to the mid-point of the foot. In this position, stresses on the fracture bones are high and blood supply is restricted, which can cause persistent problems with delayed healing. People with Jones fractures often experience prolonged pain and swelling and can have significant difficulty walking on the affected foot.
To treat a Jones fracture, your podiatrist will immediately immobilise your foot to allow the bone to heal properly. This is done with an immobilising cast, brace or boot which is worn for a number of weeks. They can also provide pain relief in the form of medications or corticosteroid injections if you are suffering from significant discomfort. Such simple measures are usually enough to promote bone healing, but in more severe cases reconstructive surgery may be required -- your podiatrist will advise you on the best course of treatment for you.