March 26, 2001 -- Basketball can take a toll on a players' ankles. This is for certain.
But do your expensive, flashy basketball shoes play a part in tearing the ligaments, the tissues that act like a hinge, in your ankle?
A new study says yes but, doctors interviewed by ABCNEWS.com say no. Instead, they say, taping the ankle, ankle braces and good preconditioning exercises are the best ways to prevent ankle injuries. They say shoes have little to do with ankle injuries and basketball.
The courtside study was done on recreational players in Australia. It found that nonprofessional players — or weekend athletes — wearing shoes with air cells in the heels were four times more susceptible to ankle injuries. The study also found that half of those injuries occurred when a player landed on another's foot.
Soles and Replacements
"The air-soled shoes, like those in the Nike basketball line, do not contribute to ankle injuries," says Dr. Jon Shriner of the Michigan Center for Athletic Medicine in Flint, Mich. "Ankle injuries are the most common injury in basketball and usually in recreational players they occur because they don't precondition and they don't weight train."
Also, professional basketball players brace their ankles with tape or other supportive devices which help prevent injuries. A major way recreational players can protect themselves from ankle injuries is to tape their ankles for more support and to replace their shoes after a month or two of constant wear. The shoes wear out and so do their support systems.
"The Detroit Pistons actually fine members of the team who don't tape their ankles because it has shown to be so effective in preventing injury," Shriner said.
The study, released today in the British Journal of Sports Medicine , said that almost half of the ankle injuries studied occurred during landing. Doctors agree that landing is an akle's worst enemy when it comes to basketball.
"When people are in the air, twisting and trying those Michael Jordon moves in the air, they usually land incorrectly and turn their foot or ankle in an unhealthy position or end up on another's foot," says Shriner.
Weekend Warriors Wear Shoes Too Long
"There is something to having more structure and bracing in the ankle area," says Dr. Doug McKeag, director of sports medicine at Indiana University. "But I have found that shoes with air cells combine stability and cushioning. These are expensive shoes and a nonprofessional player does not have the same ability to throw out a pair of shoes after a month or so when the shoe wears out."
The study concluded, however, that air cells in the heel of a shoe decreases stability in the heel.
But, according to Nike, the foam suspension system in its Air Shox basketball shoes, which retail at about $150, protect the foot and ankle. The shoes contain a cushioning and stability system that consists of shock absorbers that look like suspension rods at the heel of the shoe. On the inside a cup cradles the wearer's heel which stabilizes the heel and ankle area so that twists and turns are minimal.
"What many recreational athletes forget is that shoes will wear out and their protective mechanism and technologies wear out," says McKeag."But if you are not a pro or college player and the darn things cost you more than $100, then you probably aren't going to replace them when you are supposed to which, is every month or two if you are a frequent player."