Sports Foot Injuries
Athletic competition provides numerous physical, mental, and social health benefits. But they often require the body to push much harder than it would otherwise.
Over time, such stress could cause injuries to various body parts. One such susceptible area is your feet, which can affect your ability to walk, move, and perform many other activities.
Athletes stand at an increased risk of developing any one of several sports foot injuries. Read on to learn about specific sports-related foot injuries and possible treatments.
Situated near your foot’s arch is a collection of tissue known as the plantar fascia.
When plantar fascia encounter excessive stress and strain, they can grow irritated and inflamed. This condition is referred to as plantar fasciitis.
Plantar fasciitis can be brought on by athletic activities that place significant stress on your arches, such as running, soccer, and basketball.
The most obvious symptom is pain near your heel. This discomfort can vary in intensity and might worsen when you step down or engage in any activity that places stress on the arches. Other symptoms include redness and swelling around the heel or foot’s bottom.
Typically, diagnosis is not difficult. Pain in the arches and inflammation during examination often confirm the condition. Your doctor may order diagnostic imaging tests to rule out other conditions.
Only severe cases will require surgery. Most incidents respond favorably to less invasive treatments.
Non-Surgical Treatment Options
Minor instances might respond to over-the-counter medications like pain reducers and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory agents, which are commonly abbreviated as NSAIDs. This includes Advil or Motrin (ibuprofen) and Aleve or Naprosyn (naproxen).
More moderate cases might call for the use of night splints, which keep your foot’s arch stable while you sleep. Other options could include a course of physical therapy or the insertion of padded inserts (orthotics) into your shoes to provide added protection and cushioning.
Other more significant non-surgical therapies might include electric therapy (in which impulses are transmitted into the plantar fascia) and steroid injections.
Two types of surgery are typically performed in the most severe instances of plantar fasciitis.
The first is ultrasound, where waves break up and eliminate ailing tissue. As a last resort, a surgeon might need to remove the plantar fascia from the heel bone.
The feet and ankles are comprised of many bones. Many of these bones weaken when exposed to the stress placed on them during repeated athletic competition.
Stress fractures occur when any of these bones incur tiny breakages. In medical terms, these events are called stress fractures.
Stress fractures are often the result of a quick, damaging event like a fall or collision or having your foot stepped on. Gradual bone weakening can also lead to the problem.
The clearest indication you might have a stress fracture is moderate to severe foot or ankle pain. However, in many instances, such discomfort:
- Increases when putting weight on the foot.
- Lessens when you are at rest.
- Intensifies when running or jumping.
- Appears when the area is touched or pushed into.
You might also experience symptoms like inflammation near the damaged bone or outward signs of bruising.
Physicians often cannot confirm a stress fracture’s presence without the use of diagnostic imaging tools such as X-rays, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI scans) or computerized tomography (CT scans). These enable your doctor to examine internal photos of your foot.
Stress fractures typically heal with rest and home care. However, incidents occurring in odd locations or that produce more severe symptoms may require surgery.
In many cases, the first line of treatment is a first aid practice called RICE. This acronym is short for (R) rest, (I) icing the impacted bone, (C) compressing it so that it cannot shift and incur further damage, and (E) elevating the foot over your heart, which stimulates blood circulation to the region.
Other non-surgical remedies include remaining off the injured foot for six to eight weeks for complete healing. Stress fractures may need a bracing device like a cast.
Surgery often centers around the insertion of stabilizing devices. Typically, they are made of strong materials and are designed to keep impacted bones in place until the healing process is complete.
The ankle is a major joint that connects critical foot and leg bones together. These bones are connected to muscles and other structures by soft tissues called ligaments.
Ankle sprains occur when the ligaments either stretch or, in more severe instances, tear.
Ankle sprains can result from several causes, including exercising on uneven pavement, acute traumatic force, falls that cause the ankle to twist, and competitions that require your ankle to roll, turn and twist repeatedly.
The symptoms you experience will depend upon the sprain’s severity. Sprains are labeled Grades One, Two, or Three. Lower-grade sprains might lead to occurrences like:
- Pain in the impacted ankle.
- Pain when touching and placing any object, even something as soft as a sock, on top of the area.
In more severe instances, you might witness some or all the events mentioned above, plus mobility issues, difficulty placing weight on the impacted foot, and instability.
Ankle sprains usually produce telltale symptoms that often lead your doctor to a diagnosis. But your doctor may might test your range of motion and stability and use imaging tests to confirm ligament damage.
Less severe sprains usually respond to non-surgical care. However, severe soft tissue damage may require operative procedures.
Mild Grade One events may favorably respond to RICE therapy. Additional treatment options might include the use of crutches, joint stabilization in casts or other movement-restricting apparatuses, the use of pain and inflammation-reducing medications, and physical therapy to maintain your ankle’s strength and motion range.
In the rare circumstance that surgery must be performed, the two most common surgeries are arthroscopy and reconstruction.
Arthroscopic surgery is conducted using a camera. Surgeons insert a tiny camera into your ankle and use small instruments to detach parts of the ligament caught in the joint. During the reconstruction process, the torn ligament is repaired and stitched.
The body’s largest tendon is the Achilles tendon, named for the famous figure in Greek mythology. It connects the heel bone to your lower leg muscles.
Tendonitis occurs when the Achilles tendon becomes inflamed.
The condition is often the result of overuse or injury. Sports requiring increased leg bending, running, or jumping increase the risk. Other precipitating factors include poor conditioning techniques like:
- Failing to stretch before exercising.
- A sudden increase in the amount of exercise performed.
- The intensity with which the workload is undertaken.
Like most physical injuries, the most common symptom is pain. Such discomfort is usually worse in the morning and worsens following physical activity. There may also be a thickening of the tendon and swelling.
Inflammation can occur at any point along the tendon. Therefore, your doctor will perform a visible examination of the back of your leg and check for any of the previously mentioned symptoms. Imaging tests may be performed to rule out other causes.
In most uncomplicated cases, home care should bring about a full recovery. However, if typical treatments fail to work or pain lingers for more than six months, surgery might be needed.
Initial treatment often includes the RICE protocol followed by orthotic implementation, physical therapy, and corticosteroid injections.
Two types of operations are usually undertaken to correct Achilles tendonitis – gastrocnemius recession and debridement.
Gastrocnemius recession lengthens the calf muscles to help alleviate the pressure placed on the Achilles tendon.
During debridement, the injured portion of the tendon is removed and stitched. Sometimes debridement also involves tendon transfer. Tendon transfer is when portions of a ligament (found elsewhere in the body or created from synthetic materials) are inserted to fill the space of the voided tendon.
If you have been diagnosed with any of these sports foot injuries or are experiencing the symptoms of such conditions, please contact us. Talk to your Florida Orthopaedic Institute physician today to learn more about sports foot injuries.