Pau Gasol's Torn Plantar Fascia, and Recovery Methods

February 20, 2013 | Mo Skelton

Must See Sports Injuries Videos

The roller coaster ride that is the Lakers' 2012-13 Season hit another bump on February 5, when star center and power forward Pau Gasol tore the fascia in his right foot. Although we commonly hear of the chronic injury plantar fasciitis, a torn plantar fascia is rare.

Given Gasol's return timetable of six to eight weeks, the Lakers will certainly miss their big man and his game averages of 13.4 points and 8 rebounds. But how the team regroups is not as interesting as Gasol's recovery, since his main job is to run and jump, actions that place direct stress on the plantar fascia tissue.

What is plantar fasciitis?

A strong layer of white fibrous tissue, the plantar fascia begins in the heel, stretches along the length of the foot and eventually divides into five sections on the underside of the toes. Its main functions are arch stability and assisting the first toe in upholding body weight. Your big toe actually supports a great deal of your weight when you run or walk, because it's the last part of the foot to push off. When a plantar fascia is torn or injured, the majority of weight is transferred onto the second toe, causing a painful callus or even a bone spur.

How is Gasol's injury different? 

When a condition ends with the suffix "itis," it involves inflammation and symptoms like pain, swelling and stiffness. A tear means damage has occurred to the tissue and the symptoms are more severe. Generally, those suffering from plantar fasciitis have intense pain early in the morning, after the foot has remained still and stiffened up overnight. Most of this discomfort is along the inside front portion of the heel, where the fascia attaches. Because of the tissue's length, an ache can be felt throughout the entire arch of the foot. Usually movement will reduce pain, but too much can cause it to worsen. The opposite is true with a tear; motion will actually increase discomfort.

The main difference between fascia pain and other foot injuries is the ability to raise the toes, which causes the fascia to tighten. If lifting your toes causes notably worse pain in the plantar surface of the foot, you're probably suffering from a plantar fascia issue and need an MRI to determine the extent of the damage.

Torn Plantar Facia Treatment

The basic prescription for all plantar fasciitis patients is to stretch the Achilles tendon, the muscle that attaches to the calf. Several studies have shown this to be an effective treatment, because it alleviates pain by removing tension from over the midfoot. In severe cases like Gasol's, casting is necessary to completely remove stress from the tissue and keep the Achilles tendon in stretch position. A more conservative alternative is to wear a night splint, which keeps a stretch on the foot during sleep, thereby alleviating early morning pain. In a study by Powell, 88 percent of patients improved by using this therapy. Medications and injections are also frequently prescribed for treating damaged tissues and reducing inflammation.

Because the plantar fascia is located in the arch, often a shoe orthotic will be prescribed. However, it's extremely important to be correctly fitted with the proper type. Another study by Powell showed that 75 percent of patients with plantar fasciitis in a normal foot still used an orthotic for a pronated foot type. For those with a normal foot type, a "Thomas Heel," an orthotic with a tilted wedge, helps control the pressure around the heel to relieve stress to the tissue more efficiently.

For chronic sufferers of plantar fasciitis, soft tissue work is needed to improve tissue quality, decrease localized pain and eliminate localized waste products caused by inflammation. Once the tissue is healed, therapeutic activities are the athlete's next step to return to play.

Therapeutic Activities

Once an athlete has been cleared to begin this stage, he or she needs to focus on two main recovery areas, maintaining ankle mobility and increasing stability.

Ankle mobility is important for change of direction movements, deceleration and landing, as well as for proper squat technique. Mobility is gained through mobility drills (like these mobility drills) to maximize active range of motion in the joint.

Since stability contributes to strengthening joint muscles, stability exercises should go hand in hand with your injury recovery program. For any ankle and foot problem, you need to strengthen in all planes of movement. The best way to improve stability is to perform strengthening activities barefooted.

Barefoot Heel Walks and Toe Walks

Perform these forward, backward, sideways and with carioca. Gradually increase the pace, but not to the level of plyometrics, especially if you're on a hard surface.

Barefoot Kettlebell Swing

This is a great endurance, mobility and strengthening exercise rolled into one. When performed in bare feet, it strengthens the small stabilizer muscles in the feet. The weight of the bell promotes strength gains, and performing higher reps trains the muscles to work while fatigued. (Read The Advantages of Kettlebell Training.)

Dragging a Sled

Since the plantar fascia is stressed through all planes of movement, it's important to train and strengthen the ankle in multiple planes. All exercises can and should be performed with varying speeds and amounts of resistance.

Topics: REHAB
Mo Skelton
- Mo Skelton is a physical therapist at McCurtain Memorial Hospital (Idabel, Okla.) and is the founder of F.A.S.T. Sports Performance. He also serves as...
Mo Skelton
- Mo Skelton is a physical therapist at McCurtain Memorial Hospital (Idabel, Okla.) and is the founder of F.A.S.T. Sports Performance. He also serves as...

Featured Videos

Tim Tebow's NFL Off-Season Workout Tim Tebow's NFL Off-Season Workout Views: 153,019
Path to the Pros 2015: Trae Waynes Path to the Pros 2015: Trae Waynes Views: 80,502
Path to the Pros 2015: Marcus Mariota Path to the Pros 2015: Marcus Mariota Views: 1,270,518
Load More

Resources

STACK Fitness

Everything you need to be fitter than ever

STACK Conditioning

Sport-specific conditioning programs

Coaches and Trainers

Tips and advice for coaches and trainers

Magazine

Latest issues of STACK Magazine

STACK 4W

Women's sports workout, nutrition and lifestyle advice

Gamer

Gaming, entertainment and tech news

Basic Training

Military-style training for athletes

News

Find the latest news relevant to athletes

Most Popular Videos

Peyton Manning Dumbbell Bench With 80+ Pounds Peyton Manning Dumbbell Bench With 80+ Pounds
Views: 43,626,320
Drew Brees Will Not Be Denied Drew Brees Will Not Be Denied
Views: 12,170,372
Colin Kaepernick's Core Workout Colin Kaepernick's Core Workout
Views: 896,683
Robert Griffin III Pocket Presence QB Drill Robert Griffin III Pocket Presence QB Drill
Views: 6,866,256
Ohio State Football Open Field Plyo Drill Ohio State Football Open Field Plyo Drill
Views: 9,501,395

Load More
More Cool Stuff You'll Like
Avoid ACL Injuries in Softball with PREP

Avoid ACL Injuries in Softball with PREP

The Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) is one of four major ligaments that provide stability to the knee joined. ACL injuries are most common during...

Dry Needling: Powerful, Drug-Free Pain Relief for Athletes

Dry Needling: Powerful, Drug-Free Pain Relief for Athletes

6 Simple Tips to Prevent Knee Injuries

6 Simple Tips to Prevent Knee Injuries

4 Tips to Relieve Muscle Stiffness

4 Tips to Relieve Muscle Stiffness

How to Prevent Baseball Injuries During the Off-Season

How to Prevent Baseball Injuries During the Off-Season

8 of the Most Ridiculous Off-Field Athlete Injuries of All Time

8 of the Most Ridiculous Off-Field Athlete Injuries of All Time

Reducing Low-Back Pain: What You Need to Know

Reducing Low-Back Pain: What You Need to Know

5 Tips to Intelligently Train Through Lower Back Pain

5 Tips to Intelligently Train Through Lower Back Pain

Impressive Advances in ACL Rehab

Impressive Advances in ACL Rehab

Coaches: Prevent Injuries With the Recovery Management Tool

Coaches: Prevent Injuries With the Recovery Management Tool

Megan Rapinoe’s Secret to Staying Healthy

Megan Rapinoe's Secret to Staying Healthy

5 Things You Can Do to Prevent Muscle Injuries

5 Things You Can Do to Prevent Muscle Injuries

The Future of Sports Injury Rehabilitation

The Future of Sports Injury Rehabilitation

Sports Hernias: What You Need to Know

Sports Hernias: What You Need to Know

6 Steps for Recovering From a Season-Ending Injury

6 Steps for Recovering From a Season-Ending Injury

How to Train With Running Blisters

How to Train With Running Blisters

5 Bodyweight Exercises to Prevent Baseball Injuries

5 Bodyweight Exercises to Prevent Baseball Injuries

6 Ways to Prevent Common Sports Injuries

6 Ways to Prevent Common Sports Injuries

6 Stretches to Alleviate Lower-Back Pain

6 Stretches to Alleviate Lower-Back Pain

STUDY: Female Athletes Are at Higher Risk of Overuse Injuries

STUDY: Female Athletes Are at Higher Risk of Overuse Injuries

3 Steps to Prevent Soccer ACL Injuries

3 Steps to Prevent Soccer ACL Injuries

Preventing ACL Injuries in Soccer Players

Preventing ACL Injuries in Soccer Players

3 Steps to Alleviate a Sore Neck

3 Steps to Alleviate a Sore Neck

4 Sports Massage Techniques to Relieve Tight Muscles

4 Sports Massage Techniques to Relieve Tight Muscles

Basketball Players: Prevent Ankle Sprains With These 3 Exercises

Basketball Players: Prevent Ankle Sprains With These 3 Exercises

How to Treat Piriformis Syndrome

How to Treat Piriformis Syndrome

Fix 3 Common Ankle Problems to Prevent Injury

Fix 3 Common Ankle Problems to Prevent Injury

Predicting the Impact of DeMarco Murray's Hand Injury

Predicting the Impact of DeMarco Murray's Hand Injury

Why Tommy John Surgery Is Ruining Pitchers

Why Tommy John Surgery Is Ruining Pitchers

STUDY: Imaginary Exercise Helps You Recover Faster From Injury

STUDY: Imaginary Exercise Helps You Recover Faster From Injury

10 Ways to Fix Back Pain

10 Ways to Fix Back Pain

How to Prevent Hamstring Injuries

How to Prevent Hamstring Injuries

How to Prevent In-Season Volleyball Injuries

How to Prevent In-Season Volleyball Injuries

What’s With the Stethoscope? Heart Murmurs in Athletes

What's With the Stethoscope? Heart Murmurs in Athletes

Evan Gattis's Protection-Enhanced Catcher's Helmet

Evan Gattis's Protection-Enhanced Catcher's Helmet

Quarterbacks: 4 Tips to Keep Your Throwing Shoulder Healthy

Quarterbacks: 4 Tips to Keep Your Throwing Shoulder Healthy

Eliminate Elbow Pain with These 3 Methods

Eliminate Elbow Pain with These 3 Methods

Prevent ACL Injuries With This Hamstring-Focused Workout

Prevent ACL Injuries With This Hamstring-Focused Workout

Connective Tissue: The Key to Preventing ACL Injuries

Connective Tissue: The Key to Preventing ACL Injuries

How to Keep Your Feet Healthy On and Off the Field

How to Keep Your Feet Healthy On and Off the Field

Achilles Tendon Ruptures: Prevention and Recovery

Achilles Tendon Ruptures: Prevention and Recovery

Avoid Low-Back Pain With These 7 In-Season Exercises

Avoid Low-Back Pain With These 7 In-Season Exercises

2 Ways to Fix Anterior Pelvic Tilt

2 Ways to Fix Anterior Pelvic Tilt

7 Ways to Fix Back Pain

7 Ways to Fix Back Pain

The Secret Weapon Powering Stephen Curry's Resurgence

The Secret Weapon Powering Stephen Curry's Resurgence

YardBarker