Basketball involves hard running, abruptly changing feet positions, and extreme use of the Achilles tendon. The Achilles tendon, which attaches the heel bone to the calf muscle, reinforces walking and running stability by lifting the heel off the ground. Sudden changes to direction and excessive running may cause small tears in the tendon, causing pain and minor swelling. Playing basketball uses the Achilles tendon and sometimes causes tendonitis, which results in inflammation and pain around that area.
Achilles pain concentrates on the area directly above the heel to just below the calf muscle. Pain is often felt several hours after playing basketball, especially after resting. Flexing and moving the ankle sometimes alleviates the pain, but soreness usually intensifies upon walking or other activities that call upon the Achilles tendon.
Immediate attention to Achilles pain is necessary to avoid future problems. Before diagnosing Achilles tendonitis, a physician will examine the area by evaluating the patient's ability to move the foot. To check for micro-fractures or severe tearing of tendons, a physician may order X-rays. Patients who suffer from Achilles pain should always tell a physician if they had been playing basketball prior to the onset of the affliction, because repetitive running is generally the culprit for Achilles pain.
Several modes of treatment are available for those suffering from Achilles tendonitis. Apply ice for about 15 minutes out of every hour and stay off the affected foot. If the condition worsens, your doctor may recommend that you immobilize your ankle with a cast or night splint. For problematic pain, oral medications such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen can help to decrease pain and inflammation. Severe injuries that involve a complete rupture of the Achilles tendon require surgery to prevent lameness. Post-surgery rehabilitation is required to return to full strength and range of motion.
To avoid Achilles pain caused by playing sports involving hard, repetitive running, wear well-fitting, supportive and high-quality shoes. In addition, perform ankle and foot strengthening exercises to help prevent the occurrence of Achilles tendonitis. Before playing basketball, be sure to perform stretching exercises that involve calf muscles to reduce incidence of Achilles injury.