Ball Don’t Lie, But Neither Does Fungus: Survey Shows NBA Players Hit Hard By Toenail Fungus

A survey of athletic trainers for 17 National Basketball Association teams found that nearly one-third of players suffer from toenail fungus / onychomycosis. Unfortunately, this is not the sort of marketing NBA teams may want, but the survey sponsored by Novartis Pharmaceutical Corporation reflects just how widespread the problem is. An estimated 10 million Americans are infected with nail fungus, which is a  notoriously difficult ailment to treat.

About Toenail Fungus

Tell-tale signs of toenail fungus include thick, yellow, crumbling or deformed nails. Sports like basketball may be painful, as the shoe rubs on the infected nails. The most widely accepted treatment is to take a daily pill like Lamisil, although this remedy requires regular liver monitoring to ensure the drug is not too taxing on the body. Laser toenail treatment can also improve the appearance of the nail while patients wait for the infected nail to grow all the way out. Treating footwear with a germicidal UV lamp is also an important part of therapy — aimed at preventing a recurrence, which is all too common when a person sticks their feet back into shoes where fungal spores live.

What Causes Toenail Fungus In NBA Players?

Nail and foot fungus thrives in dark, moist environments. Showers, pools, changing rooms and sneakers are common breeding grounds for these infections. NBA players are frequently exposed to perspiration moisture — which the fungus loves to feed on. They are also subject to nail injuries and ingrown toenails, which create an entry-point for the fungus to get into the body. In addition, it was found that patients often wait too long to seek treatment, which prolongs the condition and makes them more likely to inadvertently pass it on to other players in close proximity.

Dr. John McNerney, team podiatrist for the New Jersey Nets, said it’s no surprise that a high percentage of players suffer from a nail fungus infection. “Basketball players have mastered the essential elements of running, jumping, cutting, stopping and pivoting on a hard floor — and it’s these quick, harsh movements that may cause trauma to their toenails,” he explained.

What Other Foot Problems Ail Basketball Stars?

The survey also found that, at any given time, at least one player will be suffering from:

  • Ankle Sprain (100%)
  • Achilles Tendonitis (94.1%)
  • Athlete’s Foot (94.1%)
  • Ingrown Toenails (94.1%)
  • Nail Fungus Infections (88.2%)
  • Plantar Fasciitis Heel Pain (88.2%)
  • Bone Bruise / Bursitis (88.2%)
  • Stress Fracture of the Foot (64.7%)



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We don’t all have the luxury of having a podiatrist on staff, but we can all access treatment to cure and prevent toenail fungus. We can all take care of our feet to keep sweat away, prevent blisters and ingrown toenails, and keep our shoes sanitized from bacteria and fungus.

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