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. They 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. NBA injury statistics show that ankle injuries account for 13 percent of games missed.

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 of many players 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 will be helpful, but if the muscles and ligaments are not strong enough to prevent you from walking without pain, it's possible that a surgical repair would be 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 complete rupture. In a partial tear, immobilization may be helpful. In a complete rupture, surgical repair is needed.

It is of the utmost importance to pick the right shoe that will protect you from injuries, but it must be realized that it's what is inside the shoe that counts. Today manufacturers are putting inserts into most athletic shoes. Some of us need additional balance and support from custom made biomechanically designed inserts. They will not only help to protect against injuries in the foot and ankle, but also the knee, hip and lower back.

Dr. Robert F. Weiss, a Sport Podiatrist, was a member of the Medical Advisory Committee of the 1984 & 1988 Olympic Marathon Trials.

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