Case Study Example: Analysis of Foot Injury, Diagnosis, and Treatment in Athletes

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Sewanee University of the South
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Case study
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The human foot is one of the most common regions affected by both acute and chronic injuries. According to Jerosch, et al. (44), foot injuries have adverse effects on an individual's level of participation in sports despite their diminished life-threatening effect. A foot injury limits an athlete's ability to run, kick, and jump as well as changing direction. Therefore, effective treatment and seeking for rehabilitation of the athlete is critical ensuring that he or she returns to his normal functioning (Knobloch, Yoon, Vogt, 672). This paper considers Yao Ming as one of the most famous athletes and analyses his encounters with foot injuries, details the appropriate management and treatment techniques applied and the rehabilitation processes incurred.


According to Braun (143), Yao Ming is regarded as the founder of Chinese basketball due to his outstanding performance records that have gone unbroken for a long time. Ming was born on 12th September 1980 and began his career from 1997 before retiring in 2011. Yao also played in the National Basketball Association (NBA) league under the Houston Rockets, a club where he spent a long period of his career. However, Yao was never exempted from injuries. On 8th of May 2009, Yao injured his left foot when his career club, Houston Rockets' was battling it out with the Los Angeles Lakers under the conference semi-final series (Haozhou, 18).

Wild-Aid (1) adds that thorough medical analysis revealed that the athlete has an unrelenting hairline fracture in the left foot and needed critical care for recovery. Yaos injury failed to heal during the first two to three month as it was projected by the doctors. As a result, Yao had to undergo a major foot rebuilding surgery where he went through a graft of the bone as well as the realignment of the bones located in the arch of his left foot (Wild-Aid, 1).

According to Braun (143), Yao's career came to a standstill in December 2010 when his doctors exempted him from the NBA league at the beginning of the season for what was referred to as a stress fracture that had occurred in his left ankle. Comprehensive analysis and diagnosis revealed that this injury was as a result of the previous surgery and was responsible for the athlete's worsened life. Consequently, Yao had to undergo appropriate treatment alongside rehabilitation. In 2011 the incumbent governor decided to take a voluntary retirement at the age of 30 years leaving a famous brand behind in the Chinese basketball history (Haozhou, 12).


The foot operates as the lowest point of the human leg. The foot has three critical functions, providing human beings with their posture, ensuring balance and helping to achieve the desired movement in any direction. The shape of the foot coupled with the human bodys natural balance-keeping systems allow people to not only walk but also run, climb, and carry out other numerous activities. The anatomy of the foot comprises of over 100 ligaments, tendons, and muscles that move three dozen joints alongside bones which provide the body with its structure (Beynnon, Murphy, &Alosa, 376).

The structure of the foot resembles that of the hand; however, the foot is stronger and less mobile as it bears more weight (Jerosch, et al., 42).The calcaneus is the largest bone of the foot forms the heel which slopes upwards to join the tarsal bones that point downward in collaboration with the other bones of the feet. The arches of the foot are located below the juncture of these bones as three different curves at the foots bottom and combine to make movement easier. The bone angles are responsible for the creation of three main arches which include medial, lateral, and the central longitudinal arch (Beynnon, Murphy, &Alosa, 376).

The three arches are supported by the tendons connecting the muscles and the ligaments responsible for the connection of the bones. The bones of the foot are properly arranged in different rows referred to as tarsals, metatarsal bones, and the phalanges (Knobloch, Yoon, Vogt, 673).Additional bones of the foot include tibia, talus, fibula, cuneiforms, navicular, and the cuboid as shown in the figures below:

Broken wrist

Heel bone

Wrist bones



A critical analysis of Yao Mings situation identified stress fractures, which refers to tiny fractures in the bone as the main cause of his injury (Braun, 143). These injuries happen as a result of tedious forces applied on the foot. Mechanisms of injury include jumping up and down repeatedly or running long distances without resting. This is applicable to Yao's situation as he spent a lot of time in physical exercises and playing basketball. However, stress fractures may arise from the normal use of a borne which weakens over time as a result of osteoporosis ((Jerosch, et al., 46) (Knobloch, Yoon, Vogt, 674) (Wild-Aid, 1).

Below is an illustration of the stress fracture


According to Haozhou (42), doctors may diagnose a stress fracture by analyzing the history of the patient. However, critical conditions require imaging tests such as X-rays, bone scan, and the use of Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). X-rays should be taken after several weeks to portray the evidence of stress fractures appropriately (Beynnon, Murphy, & Alosa, 376). A bone scan involves administering a radioactive substance which moves in the body and accumulates in areas where bones are healing and shores on the scan as a clear image. Lastly, the MRI utilizes strong magnetic fields and radio waves to locate the affected areas.

Signs and Symptoms: The pain associated with a stress fracture can be difficult to notice after the occurrence of the injury, however, this pain tends to worsen as days move on. The tenderness often originates from a unique spot and tends to decrease when someone goes to rest (Jerosch, et al., 45). However, an individual may notice some unusual swelling around the affected area.


One may need to put on a walking boot, use crutches, or wear a brace to reduce the weight of the bone until healing takes place (Wild-Aid, 2013; Haozhou, 18). However, some patients may need surgery to complete some types of stress fractures especially those occurring in regions of the foot without sufficient supply of blood. Nevertheless, surgery is always the best option to enable healing in elite athletes who require a more rapid return to the game such as Yao Ming (Beynnon, Murphy, & Alosa, 376).


According to Braun (143), there are different activities that can be done to ensure that an athlete suffering from a stress fracture goes back to his game participation and full functioning as expected. First, the athlete needs to have adequate rest to give the affected area and the entire foot enough time to heal as directed by the physician. Secondly, the athlete can use ice to help in the effective reduction of swelling as well as relieving his pain. Lastly, the athlete should start resuming his physical activities gradually in regard to the doctors recommendations (Knobloch, Yoon, Vogt, 675).


Foot injuries remain one of the most common injuries that affect the functionality of an athlete in his career. Yao Ming is one of the famous athletes who suffered from stress fractures as a common form of the foot injury. This injury had adverse impacts in his career that he was forced to retire at an age of 30 years despite his desire to continue playing. Nonetheless, Yao Ming remains one of the most historical players that transformed the status of the sports industry in China through his active engagement in NBA series as well as positive achievements attained in his cradle land. As such, it is imperative to use Yao's example and encourage the society on the significance of active engagement in sports activities.


Works Cited

Beynnon, Bruce D., Darlene F. Murphy, and Denise M. Alosa. "Predictive factors for lateral ankle sprains: a literature review." Journal of athletic training 37.4 (2002): 376.

Braun, Barbara L. "Effects of ankle sprain in a general clinic population 6 to 18 months after medical evaluation." Archives of family medicine 8.2 (1999): 143.

Pu, Haozhou. From ping-pong diplomacy to hoop diplomacy: Yao Ming, globalization, and the cultural politics of US-China relations. The Florida State University, 2012.

Jerosch, J., et al. "The influence of orthoses on the proprioception of the ankle joint." Knee Surgery, Sports Traumatology, Arthroscopy 3.1 (1995): 39-46.

Knobloch, Karsten, Uzung Yoon, and Peter M. Vogt. "Acute and overuse injuries correlated to hours of training in master running athletes." Foot & Ankle International 29.7 (2008): 671-676.

Wild-Aid.Yao Ming at The Houston Zoo: Media Coverage. 2013. Retrieved from:


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