If you’ve followed basketball in any capacity over the years, you’re probably familiar with the dreaded Achilles tendon tear. It led to Kobe Bryant’s retirement after several shortened seasons following the injury. In more recent years, NBA stars such as DeMarcus Cousins and John Wall have experienced torn Achilles tendons and are slowly making their way back with rehabilitation. While Achilles tendon tears are relatively rare among non-professional basketball players, other injuries to the Achilles tendon can still happen while playing the sport. This post will cover a fairly common one - Achilles tendonitis.
What Is Achilles Tendonitis?
Tendonitis is the inflammation of tendons, which are connective tissues linking muscles to bones. Your Achilles tendon is the largest and strongest tendon in your body, connecting your heel to your calf muscle. It’s essential to many movements - from standing to walking to running to jumping. Off the bat, you can already see how important this tendon is for a sport like basketball. When Achilles tendonitis occurs, your Achilles tendon becomes inflamed from tiny tears caused by impact, stress, or overuse.
Causes of Achilles Tendonitis in Basketball
Basketball is a sport with constant action and very little downtime. Whether you’re running, cutting, shooting, or rebounding, you’re putting force on your Achilles tendon, which helps absorb impact and also propel you forward and up. These forces on their own won’t cause tendonitis right away. It’s usually a range of factors, such as insufficient warm-ups, bad form, or even old shoes, compounded over a period of time, that causes the damage to your Achilles tendon.
Another factor is age. People over 30 are more susceptible to Achilles tendon injuries because tendons become less flexible over time. Many NBA stars over the years with Achilles tears were in their early to mid-30s. Chauncey Billups, Patrick Ewing, Dominique Wilkins, and of course Kobe Bryant all come to mind to illustrate this point.
Symptoms & Treatment of Achilles Tendonitis
Achilles tendonitis is felt as a sharp or aching pain over the Achilles tendon, which is the area just above the heel. Sometimes you’ll feel the pain and discomfort even higher up, near the bottom of the calf muscle. The area may be sensitive to the touch, and you may even hear a cracking sound when you move your ankle. Typically the pain feels worse a few hours after the activity.
Follow the standard RICE method of treatment - rest, ice, compression and elevation. The key is to take it easy and be patient with tendonitis injuries. Reduce your level of activity, ice often, stretch and massage the muscles around the tendon, and look into strengthening exercises once the pain level goes down. And most importantly, visit your physician or sports medicine professional for a diagnosis and recovery steps.
Preventing Achilles Tendonitis
To prevent Achilles tendonitis, make sure to warm up properly before you jump into your basketball game. Try some dynamic stretches and light jogging. Make sure your shoes offer adequate support and are properly tightened. While you can’t control for a lot of movements that happen during the game, a little bit of TLC before the game goes a long way in preventing injury.
As a supplementary prevention aid, consider wearing calf compression sleeves for your basketball games. These sleeves are worn around the lower part of your legs, typically in the area below your knees to just above your ankles. They’re designed for optimal protection against muscle oscillation, micro-tears, and damage that occur to your lower-leg muscles and fascia during training. They also help with recovery when worn after exercise.
Enerskin’s E75 Calf Compression Sleeves are top-quality compression sleeves that provide targeted compression and support to the calf, tibialis anterior, and Achilles tendon. While injuries are a common and unfortunate part of any athletic activity, with proper training and good gear, you can reduce the frequency and even prevent them from happening. Enerskin is proud to support all the athletes out there with the latest and greatest in compression sportswear.