The Charlotte Bobcats were already considered underdogs entering their first-round matchup against the defending champion Miami Heat. The team didn’t look overwhelmed early in Game 1 jumping out to a nine-point lead behind strong play from Al Jefferson.
Then the unfortunate happened as Jefferson suffered a left foot injury in the first quarter. The injury is being reported as a plantar fascia strain. After the loss, Coach Steve Clifford reported Jefferson felt a “pop” and Jefferson admitted he needed multiple pain-killing injections to return to the court. He was clearly limited, finishing 5-of-12 from the field following the injury. The description from both Clifford and Jefferson imply that the plantar fascia tore though the severity of the injury has yet to be determined. Now the Bobcats face a 1-0 deficit and questions about the availability of their best player.
The plantar fascia is a dense group of connective tissue designed to support the bottom of the foot. However, it can become strained and inflamed with repetitive activity or, as in the case of Jefferson, an isolated incident that overstretches the tissue. If the plantar fascia remains intact but becomes an inflamed it is known as plantar fasciitis. Plantar fasciitis can become a chronic issue that is extremely painful and equally difficult to manage. Often an extended period of rest is the best course of treatment. Numerous players including Bulls center Joakim Noah and Lakers guard Kobe Bryant have managed plantar fasciitis at various points of their careers.
However a diagnosis of a partial tear is a bit more problematic. The plantar fascia is specifically designed to withstand and disperse the increased forces associated with walking, running, and jumping. A partial tear compromises the integrity of the foot and the affected individual often experiences pain when attempting these actions. In some cases surgery is required. In the procedure, known as a plantar fasciotomy, tiny incisions are made in the fascia to decrease the tension and pressure.
The timeframe for a plantar fascia injury varies with the degree of the injury but none are encouraging for the Bobcats. The InStreetClothes.com NBA Injury Database revealed 17 cases of plantar fascia injuries described as tears or strains. The average number of missed games for those players is 12.8 and jumps to 16.0 when just big men are considered. Though Jefferson insisted he would be in uniform for Game 2, his effectiveness will clearly be in doubt.
The injury has already warranted concern for Jefferson’s long-term health. The answer lies in the final diagnosis. In some situations a complete tear is preferred to a partial tear, as a fasciotomy has “naturally” been performed. Instead of surgery the individual must simply spend the next six to eight weeks treating the symptoms associated with the injury. As the swelling and irritation subsides, the injured player experiences an associated decrease in pain. Steps, like shoe modification, are then taken to minimize the chances of any chronic inflammation developing.
Jefferson has been placed in a walking boot and will likely undergo further testing prior to Wednesday’s game to determine the best course of treatment. However if his performance following the injury is any indication of how he will play moving forward than the Bobcats are in even more trouble than they were before the series started.