basketball player holding his ankle in pain on the court.

Subtalar Joint Injuries in Athletes

There may be a fair number of things that we don’t agree on, but it’s hard to argue the popularity of sports. This is true whether we’re talking about the NFL, NBA, MLB, or some other acronym denoting professional sports leagues or about your child’s very first t-ball team. We love to play, and we love to watch. 

Maybe some of us are willing to spend a rather large amount of money to be able to watch all 32 NFL teams play every game of the season and others are more every other year Olympics fans, but a vast number of Americans are tuned into sports on some level. For a lot of sports fans, however, there is increasing awareness with regard to the risks of injury.

A growing number of parents are rethinking what age they let their child start participating in sporting activities. Professional organizations invest a lot of money in their players so preventing injuries is always top of mind.

Putting acts of player-to-player aggression aside, one question that is being asked more and more frequently is about whether athletes are being pushed to perform at levels that are more demanding than the human body can be expected to handle. This may relate to outside pressure from coaches and trainers or from the individual’s own self-expectations.   

A good example of this can be seen in the sport that causes the most injuries when compared to other team sports…basketball. Surprised? Did you expect football? That’s understandable considering that a large part of a football game centers on players tackling each other on purpose, while contact is supposed to be avoided in basketball. Nevertheless, basketball is actually a very physical sport, and players have zero protective equipment. 

Basketball Foot or Subtalar Joint Dislocation

A previously rare basketball injury, popularly known as “basketball foot”, is becoming more prevalent. Technically, it is a subtalar joint dislocation and is often the result of a player leaping high in the air to fight for a rebound and getting jostled enough to land forcefully on the ankle instead of the bottom of the foot. Of course, basketball is not the only place where this type of injury to the subtalar joint can happen. Car accidents where the ankle is violently twisted and falls can also be the cause. 

The subtalar joint, also known as the talocalcaneal joint, is one of the ankle joints. It lies below the main ankle joint, the talocrural, and is what gives the foot the ability to move from side to side and rotate in a circular motion. Walking, running, jumping and similar types of movements are made much easier by the subtalar joint, especially in situations where the surface is anything other than perfectly smooth. 

A subtalar joint injury can result in pain, inflammation, decreased mobility, and even foot deformity. For a professional basketball player, it can not only put them out of the game but can be a season-ender or worse. Depending on the extent of the injury, treatment may involve conservative methods, such as icing, elevation, medications to reduce pain and swelling, supportive devices, and physical therapy. For more serious injuries like fractures, surgery may be required.  

If you have questions or concerns about any foot or ankle issues, Dr. Christopher Hubbard is a board-certified Orthopedic Surgeon with Ortho-Care Wayne in Passaic County New Jersey, and is the former Chief of the Foot and Ankle Service at Mount Sinai Beth Israel in NYC.

 To schedule an appointment, or if you just have questions, please use our convenient online contact form by clicking here.