As any athlete will tell you, there is a certain calculated risk associated with playing sports. Whether amateur or professional, an athlete will more than likely incur some type of injury at some point during his or her career. Many of the injuries that are common to athletes affect the feet and ankles.
The foot and ankle are targeted areas for sports injuries due to the impact that most weight-bearing sports activities place on them. The impact of sudden stops, quick turns, and the general pounding that the feet and ankles take as the foundational support for the rest of the body make them particularly vulnerable.
The following are common foot and ankle injuries that occur as a result of sports:
- Plantar Fasciitis. This isn’t typically considered a sport injury, but it does occur frequently among athletes. Overuse is the root cause of plantar fasciitis, which can cause pain in the heel of the foot due to stretching and tearing of the band of tissue running along the bottom of the feet, from toes to heel. An avid runner plagued with heel pain that occurs first thing in the morning, or after a period of rest, might chalk it up to overuse. The pounding the heel endures can result in plantar fasciitis. Inadequate arch support in footwear can worsen the injury.
- Stress Fractures. Another injury caused by overuse, stress fractures may occur in athletes playing sports that require them to continually and heavily plant their feet. Runners, gymnasts, as well as basketball and tennis players are all susceptible because of the sudden stops and heavy landings required in their respective sports. The stress fracture begins as small cracks in the bone that worsens with activity. Athletes must refrain from the activity causing the stress fractures for a period of time (usually 1-2 months) so that the injured bones can heal. Speak with your health professional regarding how much time off you will need.
- Ankle Sprains. Probably the most common sports-related injury, ankle sprains occur when the ankle is abruptly turned in an awkward position. An ankle sprain is common to all sports, especially those that require quick turns, running, and jumping. Sprains are painful but can vary from person to person. The ankle area will often turn colors with bruising and inflammation. Your health professional will often recommend conservative treatment methods at first such as RICE (rest, ice, compression, and elevation). In severe cases, your doctor might order complete immobilization and in the very worst-case scenario, surgery may be required.
- Achilles Tendinitis. This form of tendonitis is a painful condition that affects the Achilles tendon, the longest and strongest tendon in the body. Running the length of the calf muscle and attaching to the heel bone, the Achilles tendon might become inflamed due to the stress that has been placed on it after sports or exercise. If you experience pain, stiffness, and inflammation in the heel, it could be an indication of Achilles tendonitis. In extreme cases, the tendon may rupture. A rupture or tear in the Achilles tendon may require immobilization and surgery. Otherwise, tendonitis is treated with rest and possibly physical therapy. Tendonitis occurs more often among middle-aged athletes.