Scrolling through some sports articles over the weekend was mostly the same old news, but an injury report brought one that caught my attention and warrants discussion. The NBA playoffs are coming up, and with the push towards the end of the season, star players are getting more court time. Such was the case for Milwaukee Bucks guard Malcolm Brogdon who suffered a minor plantar fascial tear in his right foot which will require a minimum of 6-8 weeks to fully recuperate from. But wait for Dr. D, you say. You just said it was a minor tear, why so long to heal? I'm glad you asked that loyal reader.
The plantar fascia is a ligament on the bottom of the foot which starts from the heel bone, runs underneath the arch, and travels to the base of each of the toes. This ligament helps support the structure of the foot. Basketball players and other court-sport athletes are the most susceptible to plantar fascial strains. The high demand of performing on a hard surface, lateral cutting movements, jumping and landing and repetitive periods of high activity and then rest can predispose to issues with the plantar fascia.
Symptoms can be very mild, ranging from discomfort when walking to extremely severe, where patients cannot put any pressure on their heels and will limp. This injury is very common, something podiatrists see daily, and occurs in all ages and activity levels. The treatments employed depend on the severity of the injury, but generally, most patients do not require a long period of recuperation. Unfortunately, the plantar fascia does not heal quickly, so even an elite athlete sometimes needs a period where no stress is subjected to the plantar fascia. Since the plantar fascia is one of the main structures that support the foot, sometimes that means no walking and running. We try to keep patients on their feet if possible, but each patient is different. Usually, some stretching exercises, rest, physical therapy and custom orthotics are all that are needed to get people back on their feet, raining down threes, smashing winners and pounding the pavement.