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Watch Your Step: Uneven Hiking Terrain Poses Threat to Feet & Ankles

Hiking the thousands of beautiful trails across the country can be a great way to absorb nature’s beauty while getting great exercise. But because of the uneven terrains on hiking trails, hikers should pay close attention to avoid slips and falls that may lead to injury. That was the case for Patricia, who was enjoying a hike in the Colorado mountains with her family when she slipped and soon realized she was not going to get back down the mountain on her own.

“We were 11,000 feet up on the mountain, but this could have happened in my backyard. My foot hit some pebbles and I thought I just rolled my ankle,” said Patricia, “Luckily, there was a nurse hiking the same trail. She realized it was a serious injury and helped as we waited for the rescue crew.”

Three hours later, Patricia found herself being wheeled down the side of a mountain by 15 volunteers. Patricia immediately went to an urgent care facility to get diagnosed and to receive initial treatment.

“The physician at the urgent care told me that my ankle was broken in two places, so we instantly packed up and headed back to Illinois to see a specialist and start the treatment process,” said Patricia.

But when Patricia arrived at Bryce Paschold’s, DPM, AACFAS, foot and ankle surgery practice in Illinois, they both quickly realized it was a more severe than anyone initially thought.

“When Patricia came into my office, we found out that her ankle was not only broken, but was also dislocated,” said Dr. Paschold, “Because her ankle was not physically moved back into place at the time of injury, it set her treatment and recovery process back due to the amount of swelling.”

Once Patricia’s ankle was properly back into place and her swelling subsided, Dr. Paschold initiated a treatment plan including surgical intervention, immobilization and physical therapy to help her return to normal activity.

It is important to seek evaluation by a foot and ankle surgeon for proper diagnosis and treatment because if an ankle fracture is not properly treated, it can lead to chronic pain, deformity, loss of blood flow and arthritis. If immediate access to a foot and ankle surgeon is not possible, patients should go to the emergency room first and follow up with a foot and ankle surgeon as soon as possible for a more thorough assessment, diagnosis and treatment plan.

“Patients should always be evaluated by a foot and ankle surgeon as soon as possible after an injury to the area,” said Dr. Paschold. “Because of the complexity of the foot and ankle, a general practitioner may not understand the diagnosis and treatment for a serious injury like Patricia’s, which is why an expert should be consulted as soon as possible.”

“Next time I injure my foot or ankle, I will make sure to seek the expertise of a foot and ankle surgeon to ensure proper diagnosis and treatment,” said Patricia.