If you are experiencing a medical emergency, please call 911 or seek care at an emergency room.
Whether playing indoors at the gym or outdoors on the asphalt, basketball-minded weekend warriors must be sure to take proper care of their feet and ankles.
What Are the Top Three Basketball Foot and Ankle Injuries?
#1: Ankle Sprains
Ankle sprains are the most frequent basketball injury. High ankle sprains typically have associated fractures as well. And if a patient’s ligaments are torn or stretched out, that patient is at increased risk not only for chronic pain but also for further injury and falls. All ankle sprains must be addressed in a very comprehensive manner.
#2: Jones Fracture
The second most frequent basketball injury is a Jones fracture, occurring at the outside of the foot. These fractures are particularly painful and inconvenient, as they often require surgery and generally take a long time to heal. NBA players Yao Ming, Kevin Durant, and Bill Walton have all suffered Jones fractures.
#3: Stress Fractures
Stress fractures are another common injury of the feet and ankles—for example, fractures of the metatarsal bones. Stress fractures are quite common in our weekend warriors. While more conditioned players do get stress fractures, they are less prone to this type of injury.
How Weekend Warriors Can Prevent Injury
Weekend warriors—those who play rarely or infrequently—can guard against foot and ankle injuries by not playing at 100% the first time they step onto the court. Looking forward to a game of hoops? Be sure you:
- Are in good athletic condition
- Warm up appropriately
- Strengthen certain muscles
- Wear appropriate footgear
If you've had an injury in the past, don’t be discouraged. Embrace your health and be proactive about it. Maintaining daily physical activity is important, and prior injury should not be a deterrent. Just take common-sense steps toward injury prevention.
Weekend warriors—those who play rarely or infrequently—can guard against foot and ankle injuries. Learn how from Dr. Tammer Elmarsafi. https://bit.ly/3abnJWl via @MedStarWHC
Be safe and know your limitations. Speaking as a former track athlete, I have adjusted my own running regimen because I am aware of my required recovery time, where injuries tend to flare for me, and what type of running surfaces best prevent those injuries.
Athletes, weekend warriors, and others must recognize their individual limitations. Understand how the body's natural course of aging may be impacting your functional abilities over time. That awareness and knowledge will guide you on what you can and cannot do.
Stretching is the Key
Every year, Spring arrives and inspires people to become more physically active. This is great, but remember, it’s important to stretch the muscles effectively before exercise.
Stretching does not mean invest a speedy two minutes to shake everything out and jump into your exercise. Rather, consciously focus on each muscle group. Start at the hips and work your way down. Complete the range-of-motion exercises for each joint. Stretch the lower back, hips, knees, and associated muscle groups, like the hamstrings and quads.
Find your comfortable stretching position, and then push it just a little bit further. If you can hold the stretch for even 30 seconds, that's fine; over time, you will find you can hold each stretch longer and more effectively.
The Surprisingly Short Lifespan of Athletic Shoes
Preventing sports-related injuries calls for the right footgear, as former Duke University basketball phenom Zion Williamson knows all too well. In a 2019 game against the University of North Carolina, his shoe split at the seams just as he planted his left foot to pivot. He hit the floor and sustained a knee injury. Williamson’s story is just one of many cautionary tales. Wearing the right athletic shoes—and attention to wear-and-tear on those shoes—helps athletes and weekend warriors alike prevent injury.
Here’s a fact that shocks many people: Most athletic shoes last only about six months. Very active people and athletes who engage in regular, aggressive, strenuous activity should more than likely replace their athletic shoes as frequently as every three to four months.
Consider the physics: an athletic shoe sustains 100% of your body weight with each step, causing the material and structural integrity to deteriorate very quickly. Inserts and other structural components of the shoe change.
To prevent injury, make sure your shoe gear is supportive and appropriate for the physical activity in which you are engaged. Also, the sooner you acknowledge that your athletic shoes must be replaced at least every six months, the less likely you are to become injured.
Putting Your Feet First in Every Season
In winter, many patients come to us because of falls on icy, snowy surfaces. In general, slips and falls can be avoided with shoe gear suited to slippery surfaces.
The spring and fall months introduce other scenarios: people may begin to wear boots or hiking boots, although the weather may still be mild enough to engage in outdoor activities. Here again, injury can be caused by shoes that aren’t conducive to the activity at hand: For example, running in a hiking boot—or hiking in a running shoe—are not recommended.
In the summertime, we see fall- and activity-related injuries in which flip flops and sandals did not offer enough support. Also, uneven surfaces—like sand, grass, or rocks—call for even more support, particularly to the ankle, to prevent an ankle sprain.
MedStar Health: Medical Provider for Pros and Kids
At MedStar Health, we are fortunate to have all the components of a comprehensive medical team. In fact, we are the official medical team of the Baltimore Ravens, the Washington Capitals, the Baltimore Orioles, the Washington Wizards, and the Washington Mystics.
Our team also has a great deal of knowledge specific to younger athletes. I tend to hear from parents who say “I wish I’d scheduled a visit with you sooner.” Treatment of a still-developing child—perhaps for an injury or fracture that could potentially impact their growth—must be handled by a specialist who understands the nuances of such injuries.
Mobility and Quality of Life
As we go on with our daily activities throughout the year, quality of life is highly dependent on mobility. The more independently mobile you are, the more enjoyably active your life can be.
And for basketball players, weekend warriors, and everyone in between, mobility begins with a critical platform—the feet. My greatest motivation is keeping someone pain free and helping them function at their highest capacity. It's what I love and why I love it.