THE BLOG
02/07/2013 10:04 am ET | Updated Apr 09, 2013

Plantar Fascia Tear: Will Lakers Pau Gasol Need Foot Surgery?

Lakers forward Pau Gasol injured the plantar fascia of his foot while playing the Brooklyn Nets at Barclays Center. He "felt a pop" in his foot during the game after dealing with a several month ordeal of strain in his foot. Gasol, on twitter, announced that an MRI revealed a "torn fascia."

But how serious is ruptured plantar fascia, and will he need surgery?

The plantar fascia is a thick ligamentous band that extends longitudinally on the bottom on the foot, from the heel to the ball of the foot. Its purpose is to stabilize the arch, and resist arch collapse.

Injury to the plantar fascia is common, at least in the form of minor inflammation, a condition well known as Plantar Fasciitis. It affects 10 percent of the general population, and also affects athletes.

Those with plantar fasciitis complain of pain directly on the heel at the bottom of the foot, and less commonly in the arch. Often the pain is described as deep and tearing in nature. While the heel could be painful with activity, it's most symptomatic after periods of inactivity -- such as with the first few steps when getting out of bed in the morning.

Plantar fasciitis usually occurs slowly over time, and rarely occurs from a single traumatic event. Though chronic plantar fascia strain, could weaken the ligament making one more susceptible to a traumatic tear. A common treatment for plantar fasciitis is cortisone injections, which also make the ligament more prone to rupture.

Rupture of the plantar fascia, when it does happen is a serious event for the foot. Most often the rupture occurs at the heel bone insertion of the thick ligament. Extensive traumatic tears of the plantar fascia are not common. In my experience as a reconstructive foot surgeon, ruptures are most often partial tears and a complete tearing away of the ligament is quite infrequent, but does occur.

The good news, at least for Gasol, is that a torn plantar fascia does not require surgery.

Actually, rupture of the ligament is often curative to a person who has been suffering from longstanding plantar fasciitis, because it lengthens the tendon (which is what we do in surgery). The downside is a cast and crutches for about six weeks until the ligament heals, and physical therapy thereafter.

-- Dr. Neal Blitz
New York City

To learn more about Dr. Neal Blitz, please visit www.BunionSurgeryNY.com