The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine

March Madness! Basketball Players and Foot Injuries

Posted by on Friday, March 16th, 2012


With the wild roller coaster ride of the NCAA tournament in full swing and the NBA trading deadline just passed, it seems like a good time to take a look at basketball players and the confounding number of foot injuries they deal with every season.

Well, actually I guess I shouldn’t say confounding–after all, if you take a very large person and tell him to run up and down a hardwood court for a few hours almost every day for months at a time, it seems inevitable that his feet are going to take a beating. I should know–my team, the poor little NJ Nets have found that their biggest enemy this season is foot injuries (okay, lack of talent is also a problem, but they’ll be great next year!). They had these issues: MarShon Brooks missed games due to a broken toe; Damion James is out for the season after surgery to replace a screw that was inserted in his foot last year when he broke it and missed most of the season; Brook Lopez missed the first eight weeks of the season with a stress fracture in his foot, then went down again with a severe ankle sprain; Shawne Williams needed surgery to remove bone fragments and repair an old foot fracture and is out for the season.

I know, these aren’t stars (though Dwyane Wade, possibly suffering from plantar fasciitis, certainly is), but think about that–four players on one team missing significant time due to foot injuries. Extrapolate that number throughout the entire league (subtracting a few injuries from the giant ballooning number that comes from the Nets Injury Curse), and that’s a lot of foot injuries every season, without even counting the ankle sprains and tweaks basketball players face every time they come down from a jump. Now if these are the number of injuries suffered by full grown men being tended to by top medical staffs while playing this game, then just think of what can happen to growing kids playing basketball.

Here are some of the injuries that can affect basketball players, many of which we have covered here in depth:

Now if you or your child have hoop dreams, you’re not going to stop playing the game. However, there are some things you can do to cut down on your injuries.

Choose your surface wisely. It’s certainly a lot of fun to get a bunch of friends together and play a pickup game at your local park or in someone’s driveway. However, playing on concrete is a lot harder on your bones than playing on an indoor court, which usually is built with some shock absorption. Play indoors as much as you can.

Warm up the right way. Tight calf muscles and Achilles tendons can make you more likely to injure those area. Make sure you take some time to stretch these out, as well as jog to warm up your muscles to make sure you’re not going to suddenly overstretch a tight muscle.  And hey guys, don’t be so scared of those flexibility type classes women take, like yoga or Pilates. They can help you avoid some of the injuries you’re likely to get with too tight muscles. Mix some of that in with your weight training and cardio.

Stay in shape. Building up your muscles will help provide some protection for your bones, so do all you can to develop a stronger body. Look for basketball specific exercises such as these, and don’t forget your feet, too–try these foot strengthening exercises. Also, while it’s great to have some bulk to bang around other players, the more weight you carry, the more weight you put on your feet. If you’re big, you’re big, but don’t add to the pressure on your feet any more than you have to. Keep yourself at a sensible weight so you’re not pounding your feet into the court when you land after a slam dunk.

Shoes! Again, make sure your shoes fit and that they’re in good condition. I know, if you’re a parent, it’s tempting to get a shoe with some room to grow if your child has managed to talk you into buying them a pair of their favorite NBA player’s very favorite signature shoe, but stick with the right size or you can do some real damage.

As for the shoes themselves, always play in sport-specific shoes. Some people prefer high top basketball shoes to offer ankle support, but they may not be right for anyone. If you’re in doubt about what kind of basketball shoes you should get or are suffering from chronic foot injuries, see a podiatrist at The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine (212.996.1900) to analyze your feet and discuss what kind of shoes will most help you prevent injuries. Additionally, make sure you take some time to break in your shoes, and always wear moisture wicking socks to help avoid blisters (remember, wet feet can turn into blistery feet!).

Listen to your body. Many foot injuries are simply the result of overuse. If your feet are hurting, cut back. Do something different for a few days. Wait for the pain to subside before you go back to your game. Hey, you can use the time to practice your foul shot. Kids are especially vulnerable to overuse injuries in a world where travel teams, school teams, and basketball camps are all big business. Your kid’s game will likely improve if he or she plays some other sports during the year and develops some other skills and muscles. If your child has the size and talent to play D-I basketball or in the pros, trust me, he’ll be found, even if he plays soccer in the fall instead of doing time on another travel team.

Get help. If you keep having foot injuries and rest isn’t helping, make an appointment to see a podiatrist at The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine (212.996.1900). Your injuries may be the result of a biomechanical issue that can be corrected with strengthening exercises, a change in technique, or with orthotics to help balance or support your feet.

I hope this information helps you stay in the game, and I hope your brackets aren’t busted already! If you do have any kind of foot issue or need advice to keep yourself on the court, contact us at The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine. Dr. Josef J. GeldwertDr. Katherine Lai, and Dr. Ryan Minara have helped thousands of people get back on their feet.


If you have any foot problems or pain, contact The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports MedicineDr. Josef J. GeldwertDr. Katherine Lai, Dr. Ryan Minara and Dr. Mariola Rivera have helped thousands of people get back on their feet. Unfortunately, we cannot give diagnoses or treatment advice online. Please make an appointment to see us if you live in the NY metropolitan area or seek out a podiatrist in your area.