|Here at Maimonides Medical Center, our Orthopedic Surgeons and Sports Medicine Specialists treat a wide range of patients. From professional athletes to the average Brooklyn resident, our physicians have seen countless injuries that result in pain and decreased mobility. While you may expect a professional athlete’s injury to be more severe than that of the average Brooklyn resident, you are mistaken.
“Injuries found on the professional basketball court are just as common in the general population,” notes Dr. John Munyak, Sports Medicine Specialist and courtside Team Physician to the Brooklyn Nets. “Although a basketball player may pull his shoulder reaching for a rebound, while my patient hurts her shoulder reaching for a heavy bag in the back seat of her car - the injury itself is treated in the same way.” Dr. Munyak, a seasoned physician for NBA players, has treated and helped prevent many injuries for various professional athletes, as well as his own patients. So what injury does he see most frequently in his office and at the Barclays Center?
“Ankle sprains are by far the most common basketball-related injury,” asserts Dr. Munyak. About 60-70% of NBA injuries are related to an ankle sprain, in which ligaments that connect the bones and support the ankle become stretched or torn. This injury often occurs when a player accidently lands on another player’s foot, such as when landing after jumping for a rebound.
Additionally, the rapid side to side movement of the foot during the game can often cause the ankle to roll too far outward. This can also be the cause of an ankle sprain for the average patient. “I’m not sure if my perception is skewed from having spent my entire medical career in the New York City area, but I’ve seen a lot of people with sprained ankles,” notes Dr. Munyak. “With all of the uneven pavement, and the fact that people walk a lot during their daily commutes, it’s extremely common.”
The treatment plan for a sprained ankle is the same, whether you are a Brooklyn Net or a Brooklynite. “I usually prescribe a short period of immobilization, where a patient might wear a hard ankle boot in order to keep the joint still so that the ligaments can heal,” explains Dr. Munyak. After the immobilization period is over, physical therapy is used to strengthen the muscles that hold the ankle in place to stabilize the ankle and prevent recurrent injuries. When appropriate, “functional bracing” with a “lace-up ankle brace” can enable a return to the court, or a daily walk to work, while continuing to undergo physical therapy.
While painful and inconvenient, people can easily recover from an ankle sprain. Certain considerations can also be taken to prevent the injury from recurring. “Traditionally, self-treating basketball players will modify their movements,” notes Dr. Munyak. “For example, if a player knows that his ankle is unstable from a previous injury or past experience in a game, he will choose to decrease his stance or avoid certain movements in order to protect himself.” Through physical therapy and sports training, you can learn to correctly adjust your movements and strengthen your ankle. Ultimately, once healed, the best thing is to continue to stay active and regularly exercise. “Exercise can help lubricate the joints and strengthen the bones and muscles,” states Dr. Munyak. “This will enhance a person’s balance, posture, strength and flexibility - all of which can be factors in reducing a person’s risk of injury.” In addition, warming up and stretching any previous injuries before exercise, as well as stretching in general after exercise or sport, is extremely important to minimize injuries.
As with any treatment plan, it’s best to approach a sprained ankle from a holistic point of view. Getting enough sleep, complete nutrition and proper hydration are equally important in injury prevention. “As a physician, you have to assess what additional factors might cause injuries. For example, if a person has poor nutrition, his or her body will not be able to fully fuel muscles or replenish the energy stores and electrolytes lost during activity,” explains Dr. Munyak. Any physical activity can put high demands on the body, leading to potential injury. Making sure you have a sound body and mind is key in playing defense for your health.
Dr. John Munyak,
Sports Medicine Specialist
Dr. John Munyak is a sports medicine specialist and the team physician for the Brooklyn Nets. Dr. Munyak’s extensive knowledge of sports medicine, orthopedics and emergency medicine allows him to provide his patients with the most advanced care and up-to-date treatments available. A life-long sports fan himself, he utilizes all methods possible to avoid surgery for his patients.
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