Foot and Ankle Sports Injuries
For optimal health and wellness, there are some things you simply must do. You need to eat well, drink plenty of water, and get enough sleep at night. Of course, you also need to engage in regular physical activity. Humans are simply meant to move.
There is a bit of catch-22 in that notion, though. Leading a sedentary lifestyle is obviously bad for your health, but all physical activity comes with a certain degree of injury risk. Given our reliance on feet and ankles for mobility, lower limb injuries tend to be quite common. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t play your favorite sports or work out!
The good news about foot and ankle sports injuries is twofold – 1) most are successfully treated without needing surgery and 2) prevention measures can greatly reduce injury risk in the first place.
Acute or Chronic?
There are two general categories when it comes to sports injuries—acute and chronic. The key distinction between the two is how the injury happens. In the case of an acute injury, the damage is sustained from a single incident. This might be the type of injury that initially comes to mind. An example would be getting hit with a line drive while playing baseball.
Conversely, chronic injuries develop over time and can often be attributed to “overuse.” This kind of injury takes time to emerge and isn’t always immediately noticeable. As you will see, stress fractures are a prime example.
Common foot and ankle sports injuries, both acute and chronic, include:
- Ankle sprains. The ankle joint is an essential anatomical structure for running and jumping. The bones in this particular joint are connected with ligaments that have a certain range of motion. When one (or more) of these ligaments are stretched beyond that range when a foot turns excessively, it becomes damaged. This is one of the most common injuries, both from sports and otherwise, that humans experience.
- Heel pain. Much like with ankle sprains, heel pain is also quite common. We place tremendous amounts of force on the backs of our feet, especially during sports and workouts. For adults, the two most common sources are plantar fasciitis (which causes pain in the bottom of the heel) and Achilles tendinitis (which causes pain in the back of the heel). For adolescents, Sever’s disease (a “growing pains” kind of condition) is often responsible for heel pain.
- There are two types of fractures, and they are related to acute and chronic sources. If you think about a “regular” broken bone, you are likely thinking about a stable fracture—one that hasn’t pierced the skin and features a single break. Stable fractures happen due to acute injuries.
Stress fractures are chronic injuries. These are hairline cracks that develop in the surface of a bone in response to overuse. The lower limbs are particularly susceptible to stress fractures on account of the tremendous forces loads placed on the lower limbs.
- Shin splints. As with stress fractures, shin splints are also overuse injuries. They develop along the edge of the tibia (the larger lower leg bone) and are often associated with sudden increases in either intensity or duration of training sessions.
- Turf toe. When the big toe bends back further than it is intended, ligaments sprain (much like with an ankle sprain). This condition is known as turf toe and it can sideline an athlete for at least three weeks.
This list is not comprehensive. Given the intricate anatomy of the foot and ankle, there are many other potential issues that can arise. No matter the lower limb injury you sustain during physical activity, come see Dr. Borys Markewych and his team here at South Hill Foot & Ankle Clinic. Dr. Markewych will evaluate the extent of your injury, and then create a treatment plan to resolve it for you.
Treatment Options for Foot & Ankle Injuries
The initial treatment for an injury sustained during physical activity is usually first aid. RICE therapy is the traditional form of first aid and consists of Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation. The goals for these components are to relieve pain, reduce inflammation, and give damaged body tissue the opportunity to heal. More recent thought, however, is to incorporate movement earlier in the treatment process. This should be done under the instruction and guidance of a medical professional.
Conservative treatment options Dr. Markwych may prescribe for sports injuries include custom orthotics, medication, corticosteroid injections, and physical therapy. In many cases, nonsurgical care proves to be rather effective.
In cases wherein surgery is necessary, you will be glad to know that advancements in technology have resulted in minimally invasive procedures that are safer, have shorter recovery times, and cause less pain than more traditional surgeries. Dr. Markewych specializes in providing a range of minimally invasive surgeries for patients to address various medical problems, including sports injuries.
How to Prevent Injury During Physical Activity
Dr. Markewych can create a treatment plan to help you overcome a foot or ankle injury. Even better, though, is preventing one from happening in the first place. You can lower your risk of sustaining an injury by using the following practices:
- Ease into activity. If you are just starting a new exercise program, are going to play basketball or tennis with friends, or have recently signed up for a recreational sporting league, it’s best not to jump right into the activity. Instead, start at a moderate level and gradually ramp up your efforts.
- Wear appropriate shoes. Making sure you have the correct shoes for the activity you perform is absolutely essential. Just as important is wearing footwear that fits properly. Shoes should be neither too small, nor too big. You also need to make sure your footwear features robust arch support, ample cushioning, and cradles your heel snuggly when laced.
- Warm up and stretch first. Always take about 5-10 minutes to do some brisk walking or light jogging before your game, practice, or workout session. After the warmup, use some dynamic stretches to get your body ready for action.
- Cross-train. High-impact activities come with increased injury risk. Instead of running six days a week, consider running on alternate days and using low-impact activities between them. Cycling, swimming, yoga, and even simply walking (a truly underrated exercise) are all great options to reduce stress on your body.
Find the Care You Need at South Hill Foot & Ankle
We hope you are able to stay safe while exercising and playing your favorite sports. Preventative measures will lower your risk of suffering from any of the common foot and ankle injuries. It’s important to keep in mind, though, that it is virtually impossible to eliminate all of the risk. Accidents sometimes happen, after all.
If you would like to learn more about sports injury services we provide at South Hill Foot & Ankle Clinic—or you’ve been injured and need to request an appointment—simply connect with our Spokane, WA podiatrist office online right now. You can also give us a call to speak with one of our friendly staff members by dialing (509) 747-0274 during normal office hours.