Skip to content
Link copied to clipboard

Embiid’s foot injury: What is a Navicular fracture and how can you avoid it?

Joel Embiid's foot injury seems to be a hot topic these days. In 2015, Embiid broke the navicular bone in his right foot for a second time and was unable to play for the Sixers. So what exactly is a Navicular bone fracture? Why do people get them and why does it take so long to heal? Anatomy class is now in session.

Now that the NBA season has come to its completion, we optimistic Philly sports fans start to look forward to what's next for our Sixers.  There has been a lot of talk about our lineup, who will make up our stating five and more specifically, will Joel Embiid be a part of it.  Over the past two years, Embiid has been struggling with a fracture of a foot bone called the Navicular which may seem like a long time, but when you see how much stress this little bone takes, it's a small miracle that more of us don't have problems with this bone let alone someone who is seven feet tall weighing in at 250+ pounds.

The Navicular is a small, oddly shaped bone that sits on the inside portion of the foot just in front of the ankle joint. It got its name for its resemblance to a small boat.

When you take a step, your body puts a lot of pressure on a foot bone called the Talus. That bone then shares that weight between the Calcaneus (your heel bone) and the Navicular.  The Calcaneus is the biggest bone in your foot and is pretty sturdy, but the Navicular…. not so much.  As you can see in the illustration, a lot of weight gets put onto an area that measures about two or three inches wide and four inches long.  As a matter of fact, there are many studies that suggest that the weight put onto a foot when running is three times a person's weight with every stride.  In Embiid's case, that means that every time his foot hits the ground running, he is putting around 750 pounds of pressure onto a very small area. During every step, your weight eventually gets transferred to your entire foot, but when you first make contact with the ground, your body weight has to go somewhere and that somewhere is into the heel bone (Calcaneus) and the Navicular.

There are several things that you can do to help prevent a Navicular fracture, even though this injury is typically rare.  The simplest thing is to work on your walking mechanics (a.k.a. your gait). You want to make sure that you are striking your foot in the right place and then distributing the weight onto the rest of your foot properly.  If you are not sure that you are running or walking correctly, seek out the help of a doctor, physical therapist or athletic trainer.  A specialist can analyze how you walk/run and make adjustments where appropriate to help you land and push off of your foot in the proper way.

If you do find that you are having pain and discomfort in your foot and you are not sure what is going on, make an appointment to see your doctor.  If you, like Embiid, find yourself with a diagnosed Navicular fracture, the doctor will most likely put you into a boot or perform surgery to insert a stabilizing metal pin into the bone and then have you in a cast for several weeks to let the fracture site heal.

So, the next time you are saying to yourself, "why is it taking so long for Embiid to get back on the court?"... just remember that 750+ pounds of stress adds up quickly!

Dr. Legere is a Chiropractic physician specializing in athletic injuries and physical pain. He is a published author, medical consultant to professional athletes and musicians and the creator of PATCH Technique which is a conservative approach to help people dealing with muscular or soft tissue injuries. More information on Dr. Legere can be found at

Read more Sports Doc for Sports Medicine and Fitness.