Foot Health Facts for Athletes

athletesFrom the repeated pounding that runners’ feet receive on paved surfaces to the side-to-side motion seen in court sports, there’s no question that athletes’ feet and ankles are prime candidates for injuries. Our comprehensive list of sports indicates types of injuries that may occur in the sport you play. Whether you participate in sports regularly or are just a “weekend warrior,” be on the lookout for some of these common problems:

Ankle sprains—These are one of the most common sports injuries. Prompt evaluation and treatment by a foot and ankle surgeon is important because sometimes that “sprain” is actually an ankle fracture, and treatment for these two conditions are very different. A critical component to recover is proper rehabilitation. An ankle that has not been properly healed and strengthened is more likely to suffer repeated sprains, leading to chronic ankle instability.

Achilles tendon disorders—Athletes are at high risk for developing disorders of the Achilles tendon. Achilles tendonitis, an inflammation of the tendon that runs down the back of the lower leg, can progress into a degeneration of the tendon (Achilles tendonosis). A sudden increase of a repetitive activity, leading to micro-injury of the tendon fibers, can cause these conditions. In addition to repetitive trauma, high-impact sports, such as basketball, can lead to tears and even ruptures of the Achilles tendon. These conditions should be followed by a foot and ankle surgeon.

Heel pain—This condition is most often caused by plantar fasciitis, although other things, such as stress fractures or nerve injuries, can be to blame. While faulty foot structure is the most common cause of plantar fasciitis, it can also result from wearing shoes that are worn out or are not designed for the sport in which you’re participating. Proper stretching of the Achilles tendon stretched can help get rid of this pain, but continued pain should be checked out to rule out a fracture or other cause. More information on heel pain can be heard by listening to the Heel Pain podcast.

Morton’s neuroma—Also called “intermetatarsal neuroma,” this is a thickening of nerve tissue in the ball of the foot resulting from compression and irritation of the nerve. Causes include activities that involve repetitive irritation to the ball of the foot, such as running or court sports. Symptoms start gradually and may come and go when the nerve is irritated due to activity. It is important to have it treated early on before the damage becomes more severe. Think you may have a neuroma? Listen to the What are Neuromas and What do They Feel Like? podcast.

Stress fracture—This is an incomplete break in a bone often due to repetitive activity on a bone. Stress fractures tend to occur when you start a new exercise regimen or get back to an old one after taking time off. Many factors such as the frequency and duration of activity, faulty foot structure, poor footwear and type of surface can contribute to the development of a stress fracture. Pain, bruising and redness can all present when this occurs, and rest, ice, compression and elevation (R.I.C.E) protocol should be started followed by a visit to your local foot and ankle surgeon. 

Read about common foot problems affecting athletes:

Prevent Foot & Ankle Running Injuries

Back-to-School Soccer Season 

Surgeons Warn: Skateboarding Tough on Feet, Ankles 

6 Tips to Protect Kids in Fall Sports 

Ouch! Young Soccer Players Sidelined by Painful Toes 

Is Foot Pain Ruining Your Golf Swing? 

Runners: Fit Feet Finish Faster 

Female Runners at Risk for Painful Neuromas

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  • Founded in 1942, the American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons is a specialty medical society of more than 6,000 foot and ankle surgeons. All Fellows of the College are board certified by the American Board of Podiatric Surgery. OUR VISION IS CLEAR: To serve society as the preeminent source of knowledge for foot and ankle surgery. OUR MISSION IS SOLID: To advance the competency of our members and the care of our patients.
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