BOSTON -- Foot injuries such as those plaguing Boston Celtics Robert Parish, Kevin McHale and Bill Walton are to be expected of big men playing pro basketball, the team's team physician said.
'Underneath the basket, you have these big men constantly jumping on each other's feet,' Dr. Thomas Silva said after the Celtics' practice Monday. 'These are very big people, weighing 230 and 250 pounds, all working for position in a small space under the basket.
'They are looking up all the time, their arms are up and they are jumping repeatedly. Now, these are men who are 6-foot-11, 7-feet and over, with size 15, 16 and 17 shoes, constantly landing on each other's feet. They are getting lots of small sprains when their ankle rolls as they step on each other's feet.
'These big men have developed strong ankles and tape is man's attempt to give extra support to the ankle. But you still see more ankle and foot injuries in these players than in the smaller men, guards like Danny Ainge who are moving out in the open most of the time. X-rays show evidence of a lot more smaller injuries having taken place in the bigger men's feet, despite the specially made shoes they wear.'
Parish suffered a severely sprained left ankle in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference semifinals, but came back to score 23 points and grab 19 rebounds in Game 7 four days later.
McHale is recovering from a sprained right ankle but has an incomplete stress fracture in his right foot. Walton's career statistics should be carried in a medical portfolio, for he has missed most of six seasons with foot problems. The league's former MVP has had his left foot surgically reconstructed. Like McHale, Walton now has an incomplete stress fracture in his right foot.
As the size of basketball players has increased and the season has lengthened, the stress put on players' feet is greater.
'We now have men growing to 7-feet and 7-2 with perfectly coordinated bodies, but we have to ask, 'Are there growth defects that take place?'' Silva said. 'This is a great amount of weight to be coming down constantly on the bones of the feet.
'Basketball used to just be a winter sport for college athletes, but they now play it all year, and that is before they come into the pros, where they are playing for nine months. There has to be some study of this effect.'
But Silva is aware of the economic concerns involved with professional athletes' health.
'Running and jumping is their business. This is what they do well, so there are financial considerations for them,' he said.