Carolyn Griffiths – Head Athletic Trainer, A.T.,C. – Phoenix Mercury, WNBA

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by Faye Rapoport

In response to the growing interest in women’s sports and women’s basketball, the NBA Board of Governors approved the concept of a Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) in April, 1996. The inaugural WNBA season tipped off in June, 1997, with the New York Liberty taking on the Los Angeles Sparks in front of 14,284 fans in Inglewood, CA. The sport has never looked back, welcoming its 10 millionth fan on Sept. 1, 2003, at the STAPLES Center in Los Angeles.

One of the league’s original eight teams, the Phoenix Mercury, has relied on Carolyn Griffiths, its first and only Head Athletic Trainer for seven seasons. Basketball is a physically demanding sport, and Griffiths acts as a medical liaison with the team’s medical and organizational staff, focusing on injury prevention and management.

A 1996 graduate of Grand Canyon University in Phoenix, Griffiths earned a bachelor’s degree in corporate fitness and wellness with an emphasis in athletic training. Before joining the Mercury in 1997she was the head athletic trainer at Centennial High School in Phoenix.

Griffiths also works as the head athletic trainer at Xavier College Preparatory during the WNBA off-season, and writes an occasional training column for Women’s Basketball Magazine. A native of Arizona, she is an avid runner who has competed a Vancouver marathon and a triathlon in Mexico. First, can you tell us a little about your job with the Phoenix Mercury?

Griffiths: I am the head athletic trainer. I deal with injury prevention, assessment, management and rehabilitation. What are some common foot conditions or injuries that plague basketball players, and why?

Griffiths: Common injuries are ankle sprains and plantar fasciitis. Ankle sprains are a result of the game itself. Because of the constant jumping around the basket with several other players, turning an ankle off someone else’s foot is a frequent occurrence. Plantar fasciitis can occur for reasons such as improper support with footwear and intensive training schedules. Can you give us some examples of how you have treated some of the more common injuries?

Griffiths: Treatment for ankle sprains depends on the severity of the injury. Rehab will start with decreasing swelling with cold whirpools and compressive wraps.

Then move to balance and strengthening exercises and progress back to practice and play as strength increases, and tolerance by the athlete. Plantar fasciitis can be treated with modalities such as ultrasound. Cold whirlpools are important as well. The athlete will see the podiatrist to determine if orthotics are necessary, and we will initiate a stretching and strengthening program. What kind of preventative measures do you recommend to the players in terms of maintaining foot health?

Griffiths: We remind them to take care of their feet. Cut the toenails when necessary and don’t let calluses develop. We do get the occasional black toenails from blood collecting under the nail. Keeping calluses down and providing good foot and ankle support in the form of orthotics and ankle braces is essential. Do you incorporate specific foot or ankle strengthening or stretching exercises into the players’ training regimen?

Griffiths: Yes. We instruct players with chronic problems on proper stretching, strengthening, and balancing exercises. What type of socks and footwear do the players use?

Griffiths: The league provides socks for the players, usually a thicker sock. And unless contracted with another shoe deal, they must wear Reeboks sneakers, per league sponsorship agreement. Do they use any other kind of footcare products?

Griffiths: Some use deodorants and foot powders. An antifungal for the occasional athletes foot may be used. Do you have any general training advice for basketball players when it comes to preventing injury to the lower leg or feet?

Griffiths: A good balancing, strengthening, and core program are essential, especially for females. It can help prevent or even decrease the severity of most ankle sprains, and it helps decrease the severity and possibility of other injuries in, for example, the knee, hips, etc. Thank you for talking with us!

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