The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine

NBA #1 Draft Pick Joel Embiid Suffers Foot Injury: Examining Navicular Fractures

Posted by on Wednesday, June 25th, 2014


Joel Embiid is a Cameroonian basketball player who averaged 11.2 points, 8.1 rebounds, and 2.6 blocks per game his freshman year. He finished a brief college career at the University of Kansas with the honorable distinction of “All-Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year” before being called up to the NBA draft for 2014. The 20-year-old center has already been compared to National Basketball Association greats like Hakeem Olajuwon and Tim Duncan.

However, the NBA draft has been pitched into chaos now that top pick Joel Embiid has suffered a right foot injury. The New York podiatrists at The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine see a lot of very tall athletes come in with similar foot injuries and it’s our job to get players back into shape as quickly as possible with an active recovery, without compromising their future careers.

navicular fracture
The navicular bone is the second slowest-healing bone in the body, next to the heel bone.

Joel Embiid Foot Injury Disappoints

Initially, it was reported that he “may have broken” his foot and that it was “unlikely” he’d be participating in any workouts before the June 26th draft. Rumor has it, Embiid was being actively recruited by the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Milwaukee Bucks. Last week, the player’s agent, Arn Tellem, announced that Embiid suffered a stress fracture in the navicular bone of his right foot. On Friday, he went in for surgery and had two screws inserted into the foot to stabilize the bones. This is terrible news, as industry professionals consider the navicular to be the second slowest-healing bone in the body, next to the calcaneus (heel) bone.

What Is a Navicular Fracture?

The navicular bone is located at the top of the mid-foot. While small, this crucial bone is helpful in maintaining the arch of the foot from heel to toe and stabilizes the foot. Ligaments attaching from the bone to the foot facilitate the pushing off phase of a person’s gait and distribute pressure from the body’s weight.

At seven feet tall and 250 pounds, Embiid’s navicular had a lot more offloading to do than the average person we see at our NY sports medicine center. However, we often see cases in which “weekend warriors” increase activity too quickly or people are wearing worn-out shoes and end up with a stress fracture in this location. Osteoporosis is another cause.

A hairline crack in such a small bone takes a skilled eye to see, so it is not always diagnosed immediately, which can complicate treatment, but generally speaking, one can expect a four to six month recovery period following internal fixation surgery.

The good news is that 90% of athletes are expected to return to pre-injury levels of competition after an active recovery. We treat recovery with a multidimensional team consisting of physical therapists, podiatrists, surgeons, and other care providers.

What’s the Prognosis for Stress Fracture Foot Injuries?

Famous greats like Yao Ming had their careers ended by a series of consecutive stress fractures. However, two-thirds of athletes can come back from this type of injury without the risk of future re-injury. It’s important that the players are willing to go through the required time it takes for full rehabilitation — which, admittedly, is easier in the post-season for many of the athletes we work with. Modification of footwear to redistribute weight and minimize stress can also help immensely in the post-recovery period. Players returning to action are often advised not to run too fast or jump too high, but instead to rely on natural shooting and blocking abilities.

If you have any questions about navicular fracture treatment, surgery, or recovery, please don’t hesitate to contact us. We’d love to help you get back on the road to full mobility.


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.