Foot and ankle injuries are common among people who participate in sports. Several factors contribute to this. They include failing to stretch or warm up properly, not wearing the proper type of shoe and not taping or providing other types of support for the ankle or foot. The most common foot and ankle injuries suffered by people involved in sport are plantar fasciitis, ankle sprains and Achilles tendon damage or ruptures. If not treated properly they can lead to permanent disability.
Plantar fasciitis is a painful condition. It is inflammation of the plantar fascia, the thick fibrous band of tissue running from the heel to the base of the toes. There are several effective treatments for this ailment. Doctors often proscribe rest, massages, stretching, night splints, physical therapy, anti-inflammatory medication, corticosteroids or surgery usually in that order. The most effective treatment for plantar fasciitis is orthotics, such as foot supports. Surgery is occasionally used as a last resort.
The Achilles tendon is the largest tendon in the body. It connects the calf muscles to the heel bone. Running, jumping and walking all impact this tendon. Two common injuries to the Achilles tendon are tendonitis and a rupture of the tendon. Tendonitis is inflammation in the tendon often caused by an increase in the amount and intensity of stress placed on it. It can either be treated non-surgically with rest, ice or anti-inflammatory medication or surgery may be required. A rupture (tear) of the Achilles tendon can be treated by placing the lower leg in a cast for several weeks or with surgery. Many physicians feel surgery is the better option because it lowers the risk of re-ruptures. Both methods require 4 to 6 months of rehabilitation.
Ankle sprains are the most common sports related foot and ankle injury. A sprain occurs when the ligament holding the ankle bones and joint stretches beyond its normal range. It can be treated non-surgically with a combination of rest, ice wrapped around the joint for 30 minutes immediately after injury, compression by a bandage and elevating the ankle above the heart for 48 hours. This combination is referred to as RICE. Severe ankle sprains in which the ligaments are torn may require arthroscopic or reconstructive surgery followed by rehabilitation
Treating these injuries is relatively simple if they are identified and addressed early. Many athletes dismiss the initial aches and pains associated with injury as just soreness or tired muscles. Their first response is usually to try to work through it. This can lead to serious problems. Many minor injuries are made far more serious when athletes continue to put strain and pressure on them. That attitude can change a mild strain into a serious strain and a minor tear into a rupture. Athletes should have unusual aches and pains evaluated by a skilled, licensed medical professional.
Trauma to the foot, especially the toes, can occur in many ways. Banging them, stubbing them, or dropping something on them are a few different ways this trauma can occur. Given the fact that toes are positioned in front of the feet, they typically sustain the brunt of such trauma. When trauma occurs to a toe, the result can be a painful break or fracture. Another type of trauma that can break a toe is repeated activity that places stress on the toe for prolonged periods of time.
Broken toes can be categorized as either minor or severe fractures. Symptoms of minor toe fractures include throbbing pain, swelling, bruising on the skin and toenail, and the inability to move the toe with ease. Severe toe fractures require medical attention and are indicated when the broken toe appears crooked or disfigured, when there is tingling or numbness in the toe, or when there is an open, bleeding wound present on the toe.
Generally, a minor toe break will heal without long-term complications, but it is important to discontinue activities that put pressure on the toe. It is best to stay off of the injured toe and immediately get a splint or cast to prevent any additional movement of the toe bones. You can also immobilize your toe by placing a small cotton ball between the injured toe and the toe beside it, then taping the two toes together with medical tape. Swelling can be alleviated by placing an ice pack on the broken toe directly as well as elevating your feet above your head.
Severe toe fractures may be treated with a splint, cast, and in some cases, minor surgery; especially when the big toe has been broken. Due to its position and the pressure it endures with daily activity, future complications can occur if the big toe is not properly treated. Pain associated with minor toe fractures can be managed with over-the-counter pain medications, and prescription pain killers may be necessary for severe toe fractures.
The healing time for a broken toe is approximately four to six weeks. In severe cases where the toe becomes infected or requires surgery, healing time can take up to eight weeks or more. While complications associated with a broken toe are immediately apparent, it is important to note that there are rare cases when additional complications, such as osteoarthritis, can develop over time. You should immediately speak with your podiatrist if you think you have broken your toe due to trauma, as they will be able to diagnose the injury and recommend the appropriate treatment options.
Affecting about 20-30% of the population, flat feet is a condition in which the foot’s arch either drops or never develops. Flat feet is relatively common in babies and small children as a result of the arch not developing. Adults can develop flat feet as a result of injury or pregnancy due to increased elasticity. However, in adults flat feet is usually a permanent condition.
Flat feet can make walking difficult since it places undue stress on the ankles. This stress throws off the general alignment of the legs since flat feet cause the ankles to move inward, causing discomfort. Flat feet can also affect the knees since arthritis is a common condition in that area. Fortunately, in many cases flat feet do not directly cause any pain.
When it comes to runners, there are specific shoes that can help realign the ankles and provide more support while lessening the amount of pronation involved. Running often causes weight shifting very quickly, so it’s important to be informed whether or not you are affected by flat feet. Knowledge about flat feet is crucial, especially when it comes to preventing injuries.
To be able to diagnose flat feet, a test commonly used is known as the wet footprint test. In the wet footprint test, the individual places a flat foot on a surface to generate a footprint. If there is no indication of an arch or any indentations, that person could have flat feet. In any case, if there is a possibility of having flat feet, a podiatrist should be consulted.
Once flat foot has been diagnosed, it can be treated by wearing insoles. There are two types of flat feet. The first type is rigid, where the feet appear to have no arch even if the affected person is not standing. The other condition, known as flexible flat feet, occurs when the arch seems to ‘go away’ when someone is standing but appears while sitting. In the case of flexible flat feet, unless pain is caused by the condition, there is no need for treatment. However, in the case of rigid flat feet or pain involved in flexible flat feet, orthotic insoles and exercises are prescribed to help the arches develop.
Ankle sprains can be a serious injury that should be given immediate attention and care, despite not being as severe as a broken ankle. An ankle sprain can lead to a significant amount of pain, as well as limited mobility. They are often characterized by swelling and discoloration of the skin, which occurs when the ligaments are stretched beyond their limits.
The simple act of walking can sometimes cause a sprain, which makes them a very common injury for anyone. They occur when the ankle twists in an awkward way or rolls over itself, causing a pop or snap in the tendons around the ankle. Some people are more at risk than others, including athletes who continually push their bodies to the limits and also people who have previously suffered accidents to the feet, ankles, or lower legs.
Most of the time, an ankle sprain is not severe enough to warrant rushing to the hospital. There are many at-home treatment options available to you, including propping the leg up above your head to reduce blood flow and inflammation, applying ice packs to the affected area as needed, taking over the counter pain relievers and anti-inflammatory medication, using an ACE bandage to wrap and support the injured ankle, and most importantly, remaining off your feet until the ankle has fully healed.
Despite this, an ankle sprain can turn into a severe injury that might require hospitalization. If the ankle ligaments or muscles are damaged from a tear or rip, that is one sign that the sprain is severe enough to warrant going to the hospital and possibly having surgery done. Even after the surgery, the recovery process can be long, involving rehabilitation sessions administered by a podiatrist to get your ankle back to full health.
The severity of your sprain might become apparent if you are unable to stand or walk, non-stop pain is occurring over a prolonged period of time, swelling is much more severe than initially present, or if you start to experience tingling or numbness. These signs might show that your ankle sprain might actually be a broken ankle, an injury that requires immediate medical attention.
While not completely avoidable, ankle sprains can be curbed with some preventative treatment measures. These include wearing appropriate fitting shoes that not only provide a comfortable fit, but also ankle support. It is also recommended to stretch before doing any kind of physical activity, as this will help lower your body’s chance for an injury.