Ask the Docs | Plantar Fasciitis: A Common Basketball Foot Injury

Updated December 15, 2006

Patient Question:

My heel bothers when I play basketball, and it really hurts when I wake up in the morning and stand up after rest. Is this some type of bruise, or is it a more serious injury?

Dr. Simon Lee:

It sounds like you have a textbook case of what is called Plantar Fasciitis. This condition occurs when the long, flat ligament at the bottom of the foot (Plantar Fascia) is stretched and develops small tears, causing inflammation and pain. The condition starts out gradually, and the pain is typically worse when taking the first steps after a long period of inactivity. The pain is often a sharp, stabbing sensation.

Plantar Fasciitis is a very common condition, affecting well over one million Americans each year. It’s an especially common injury with runners, tennis players, dancers, and basketball players. In fact, the Bulls' P.J. Brown was recently sidelined with a right foot plantar fascia strain. The repetitive nature of these activities—combined with running, jumping, and other explosive movements that cause increased foot demands—are especially hard on the Plantar Fascia ligament. If the activity causing the pain is not modified, the condition will likely worsen.

Treatment Options:

The good news is that Plantar Fasciitis typically responds well to conventional treatment. Since individuals with Plantar Fasciitis often have either flat or high arched feet, many patients experience significant improvement with the use of arch supports and/or better athletic shoes. Often times a focused exam will reveal significant tightness in the Achilles and hamstring tendon and muscles. As a result, massage, stretching, and weight loss are other good, conservative treatment options.

In some extreme cases, Plantar Fascia Release surgery is required. This procedure involves cutting part of the plantar fascia ligament to release tension and relieve inflammation of the ligament. In addititon an experienced physician should be consulted to evaluate and rule out a nerve compression related to the Plantar Fascia before surgery is considered.

For more information about Dr. Lee and the Sports Medicine physicians of Midwest Orthopaedics at Rush, team physicians for the Chicago Bulls, call 877.MD BONES or visit them online at

The information contained on this page is intended only for general public education, and is not intended to serve as a substitute for direct medical advice. This information should not replace necessary medical consultations with a qualified orthopaedic physician.

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