If you are not a fan of college basketball, then you are probably wondering why we have a blog titled "march madness" at the beginning of April. No, it is not because this March, in terms of weather, could be considered madness, or that the word "madness" simply goes well with March (although it does). March Madness refers to the NCAA's men's basketball tournament that hosts 64 division-1 college basketball teams from around the nation. It is referred to as "March Madness" because of the chaos, excitement, and passion that it brings -- this is marked by the fact that there is no other sport, let a lone tournament, that welcomes and expects "upsets" the way that March Madness does. An upset happens when a team that is seeded lower than their opponent ends up winning the match-- the classic underdog tale. So far, there have been 23 upsets, with some standing out more than others. One of the most outstanding upsets, in my opinion, is Wichita State (No.9) putting on an electrifying performance and beating Gonzaga (No.1). FYI, Wichita State is still in the tournament. So you might be wondering how the tournament works, or, in other words, how the "madness" is structured. The tournament started with 64 teams this year (60 automatically in the tournament, and the other four playing to gain access). These 64 teams are broken down into their respective regions: Midwest, West, South, and East ( 16 teams in each region; 64 divided by 4, get it?). The number of teams that are in the tournament is cut in half with every round that passes: 64, 32,16,8, 4, and finally 2. The last four rounds are of special importance, and although they have their formal titles (Regional finals, national semi-finals...etc.), they more commonly go by their nick names: Sweet Sixteen, Elite Eight, Final Four, and, obviously, the National Championship. Currently, we are in the Final Four stage of the tournament (hence, the title picture), with the Shockers playing the Cardinals and the Wolverines playing Syracuse.
Now that you understand what March Madness is, you are probably wondering why, as a podiatrist, we care about it. Outside of the obvious reasons (the excitement, OSU, "bro time"...etc.), the game of basketball has a way of exposing the weaknesses of our feet and ankles, and, more broadly our entire lower extremity. This is highlighted in the NCAA and specifically in the March Madness tournament.
Michael Carter Williams, the star player for Syracuse, is currently taping and recovering from a minor ankle injury amidst the teams run for the National Championship. Expected to play on Saturday against Wolverines.
UC Santa Barbara's John green goes down with a foot injury that puts him out for the entire season.
Montana's Matthias Wards's late-February foot injury that put the entire teams chances of winning in peril.
Lastly and most notably,
Kevin Ware. There hasn't been an injury this year that has shocked the sports world in such a way that Kevin Ware's broken leg did. Immediately after the injury, the video of Kevin Ware's broken leg went viral and horrified many. Fortunately, Ware promptly received proper medical attention, and is now on a steady road to recovery.
As you can see, Basketball is especially harsh on our lower extremity, with all the jumping, running, sudden stops, and the physicality of the game. Granted, it is not football, but basketball takes a different, more constant toll on the players.
Foot & Ankle Basketball Injuries:
Ankle Sprains. This is probably the most common ankle injury in the game of basketball. If you are not familiar with this injury, you probably do not play basketball. In basketball, ankle sprains happen when players come down on their foot the wrong way, suddenly and unpleasantly twist their ankle, step on an uneven part of the hardwood (say, someone's foot), or when a player exerts an unusual amount of force on the ankle.
- Ways to avoid
- Wear proper shoes that give you enough support on your ankles.
- Stretch and exercise your ankle before engaging in intense play (i.e., warm-up & practice)
- Be aware. When you are playing, know your surroundings and playing field. If you know that an ankle is particularly weak, have a trainer tape it beforehand.
- Ways to avoid
- The advice here is very similar to that of ankle sprains. You should ice and stretch your ankles and feet often. You should specifically ice your feet after playing. As for stretching, you should do it as often as you can.
- If you know that Achilles is starting to become painful, lessen the load, and, at the very least, do no over exert yourself.
- Ways to avoid
- Wear the correct shoes. If you do not know if a shoe is supporting you properly or if you suspect that it is ill-fitting, then consult your podiatrist or your on-site medical trainer.
- Once again, stress often and extensively. Many of the injuries that occur in basketball can be prevented, and, in the case treated, with aggressive and often stretching.
The NCAA's March Madness brings us joy and excitement by watching people who love the sport that they play compete at such high levels of intensity and vigor, but it also reminds us how vulnerable we are as humans and athletes to injury. As you watch the last stages of the tournament, and as you are inspired to play the lovely game of basketball, keep in mind the safety precautions that might help you prevent injury in the future.