After many years of working with basketball players and their injuries, I have become concerned with the trend toward lower, lighter and softer basketball shoes.
These shoes are meant to increase the speed of performance on the court, yet with this type of shoe, there is less stability and therefore, higher risk of injury. The NBA's injury statistics have demonstrated that ankle injuries accounted for 13 percent of games missed in recent years.
The most common basketball injury is the ankle sprain. Many of the sudden, forceful side to side moves create these injuries. Worse yet is when a player lands on another player's foot or the ankle rolls too far outward. As this mechanism of action occurs, the ligaments are stretched or torn.
The biggest mistake many players make is to try to play through the injury. This can increase the extent of the injury.
If it is treated as a mild injury or sprain, immobilization would be helpful. But if the muscles and ligaments are not strong enough to prevent the person with the injury from walking without pain, it's possible that surgery is needed.
Achilles tendonitis is another common overuse injury in the game. This is the tendon that connects the calf muscle to the heel bone. The Achilles tendon can be inflamed as in tendonitis of the tendon, or if one pushes too hard to continue to play, it can become a partial, or a complete rupture. In a partial tear, immobilization may be helpful. But in a complete rupture, surgery is needed.
It is very important for the basketball player to pick the right shoe that will protect him from injuries. But it must be realized that what's inside the shoe counts. Today, manufacturers are putting inserts into most athletic shoes. Some of us need additional balance and support from custom-made bio-mechanically designed inserts. They will not only help protect against injuries in the foot and ankle, but also the knee, hip and lower back.
Dr. Robert Weiss lives in Westport and has a sports-podiatry practice in Darien. He is a former marathon runner and was a member of the Medical Advisory Committee of the 1984 and the 1988 Olympic Trials.