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A Winning Strategy: Don't Play Through Pain

Timely treatment and rehabilitation are key to proper healing.  

Sometimes athletes can be their own worst enemy, especially when they continue to play following an injury to their foot or ankle. To ensure proper recovery from an injury, athletes should seek a proper diagnosis, prompt treatment and full healing and rehabilitation.  

Athletes often misunderstand how serious an injury can be and try to rush back into competition without appropriate treatment and rehabilitation. Some of the most difficult cases seen by foot and ankle surgeons are those in which athletes have continued to play after an injury. Orlando, Florida, foot and ankle surgeon, Robert Duggan, DPM, FACFAS, says, “Athletes often make the mistake of ignoring what seems like a minor foot or ankle injury because they are able to walk. Serious injuries can exist even when the foot or ankle is able to accept weight or pressure.”Men playing soccer

One such injury involves the Lisfranc joint, on the top of the foot. It is possible to walk with a Lisfranc injury, but this can lead to damage to the soft tissues of the foot or even chronic conditions, such as arthritis. “Sometimes the pain of this injury is mistaken for an ankle sprain, but treatment for the two conditions is very different,” Dr. Duggan comments.

Another injury that may be overlooked is a fracture of the fifth metatarsal—the bone that runs along the outer side of the foot. This can accompany an ankle sprain, or the athlete may think it is a sprain. However, this injury is difficult to heal, and continuing to participate in sports will make it worse.

Playing with pain is never a good strategy for athletes. Prompt treatment is. “Foot and ankle surgeons can determine the best course of treatment for the specific injury and help get athletes back into the game,” Dr. Duggan comments.