Athletic Sports Injuries

Foot and ankle injuries are common in sports, thanks to the high impact, weight-bearing nature of many activities. The injuries we see most often are described below.

Ankle Sprains

Ankle sprains occur when the ligaments that support the ankle stretch or tear, often due to a sudden twisting motion. This injury is particularly common in sports that involve jumping, cutting, or rapid changes in direction, such as basketball, soccer, and volleyball. Ankle sprains can range from mild to severe, with symptoms including pain, swelling, bruising, and difficulty bearing weight.

Symptoms: Pain, swelling, bruising, instability of the ankle joint, difficulty bearing weight, tenderness to touch.

Treatment:  Rest, ice, compression, elevation (RICE protocol), immobilization with a brace or splint, pain medication, and physical therapy are the most common treatments. Severe sprains may require surgery to repair torn ligaments.

Achilles Tendonitis

Achilles tendonitis is inflammation of the Achilles tendon, which connects the calf muscles to the heel bone. It often develops from overuse or repetitive stress, such as running or jumping activities common in sports like basketball and tennis. Symptoms include pain and stiffness in the back of the ankle, swelling, and difficulty walking or running.

Symptoms: Pain and stiffness in the back of the heel, swelling, tenderness along the Achilles tendon, difficulty walking or running.

Treatment: May include rest, ice, stretching exercises, orthotic devices, physical therapy, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), and in severe cases, corticosteroid injections or surgery.

Plantar Fasciitis

Plantar fasciitis is inflammation of the plantar fascia, a thick band of tissue that runs along the bottom of the foot and connects the heel to the toes. It is a common cause of heel pain, particularly among athletes who engage in activities that place repetitive stress on the feet, such as running, dancing, or basketball. Symptoms include heel pain that is worse in the morning or after prolonged activity, stiffness, and tenderness along the bottom of the foot.

Symptoms: Heel pain (especially in the morning or after prolonged rest), stiffness, tenderness along the bottom of the foot, pain with walking or running.

Treatment: Often involves rest, ice, stretching exercises, orthotic devices, night splints, physical therapy, NSAIDs, corticosteroid injections, shockwave therapy, and, in severe cases, surgery.

Stress Fractures

Stress fractures are small cracks or breaks in the bones of the foot or ankle, typically caused by overuse or repetitive impact. They often occur in athletes who engage in high-impact sports like running, gymnastics, or basketball. Symptoms include localized pain, swelling, and tenderness that worsens with activity and improves with rest.

Symptoms: Localized pain, swelling, tenderness over the affected bone, pain with weight-bearing activities.

Treatments Typically involves rest, immobilization with a cast or walking boot, modification of activities, pain medication, and in some cases, surgical intervention for non-healing fractures.

Peroneal Tendonitis

Peroneal tendonitis is inflammation of the peroneal tendons, which run along the outside of the ankle and foot. It can result from overuse, improper footwear, or repetitive stress, particularly in sports that involve lateral movement or running on uneven surfaces. Symptoms include pain, swelling, and tenderness along the outside of the ankle, weakness, and instability.

Symptoms: Pain and swelling behind the outer ankle, tenderness along the peroneal tendons, instability of the ankle joint.

Treatment: May include rest, ice, activity modification, physical therapy, NSAIDs, corticosteroid injections, orthotic devices, and in severe cases, surgery to repair or reconstruct the tendons.

Turf Toe

Turf toe is a sprain of the big toe joint, typically caused by hyperextension of the toe during activities like running, jumping, or pushing off the foot. It is common in sports played on artificial turf surfaces, such as football or soccer. Symptoms include pain, swelling, and stiffness in the big toe joint, difficulty bearing weight, and limited range of motion.

Symptoms: Pain and swelling at the base of the big toe, limited range of motion, difficulty pushing off the foot.

Treatment: Often involves rest, ice, taping or splinting the toe, immobilization with a stiff-soled shoe or boot, NSAIDs, physical therapy, and in severe cases, surgery to repair damaged ligaments.

Lisfranc Injury

Lisfranc injuries involve damage to the ligaments and/or bones in the midfoot, typically caused by a twisting or crushing force to the foot. They can occur in sports with high-impact or direct trauma, such as football, rugby, or skiing. Symptoms include pain, swelling, bruising, and difficulty bearing weight, particularly in the midfoot area.

Lateral Ankle Sprains

Symptoms: Pain, swelling, bruising on the outside of the ankle, instability of the ankle joint, difficulty walking or bearing weight.

Treatments: Treatment typically involves rest, ice, compression, elevation, immobilization with a brace or splint, physical therapy, and in severe cases, surgery to repair torn ligaments or stabilize the ankle joint.

Prevention

The best way to prevent injury is with proper warm-up, stretching, wearing appropriate footwear, and gradually increasing training intensity.

General Treatment

Treatment of specific conditions depends on the severity of the injury and should be implemented under a physician’s care. The goals are to reduce pain, inflammation, and swelling, promote healing, restore function, and prevent recurrent injuries. It’s essential to seek prompt medical attention for accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment.

Rest: Rest is often the first step in treating sports-related foot and ankle injuries. It’s essential to avoid activities that exacerbate pain and further strain the injured area. Depending on the severity of the injury, rest may involve temporarily discontinuing sports participation or using crutches to avoid weight-bearing.

Ice: Applying ice to the injured area can help reduce pain, inflammation, and swelling. Ice packs or cold therapy should be applied for 15-20 minutes every 2-3 hours during the acute phase of the injury.

Compression: Compression with an elastic bandage or compression sleeve can help reduce swelling and provide support to the injured foot or ankle. However, it’s essential not to wrap the bandage too tightly, as this can impair circulation.

Elevation: Elevating the injured foot or ankle above the level of the heart can help reduce swelling by promoting drainage of fluid away from the injury site. Elevation is particularly important during the initial stages of injury management.

Anti-inflammatory Medications: Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen or naproxen can help reduce pain and inflammation associated with sports injuries. However, these medications should be used with caution and under the guidance of a healthcare professional, as they may have side effects and contraindications.

Immobilization: Immobilization with a splint, brace, or walking boot may be necessary for more severe foot and ankle injuries to stabilize the affected area and promote healing. Immobilization helps prevent further damage and allows the injured tissues to rest and recover.

Physical Therapy: Physical therapy plays a crucial role in the rehabilitation of foot and ankle sports injuries. A physical therapist can design a customized exercise program to improve strength, flexibility, balance, and proprioception, which are essential for restoring function and preventing reinjury.

Orthotics: Custom or over-the-counter orthotic devices may be recommended to provide support, stability, and alignment to the foot and ankle during sports activities. Orthotics can help correct biomechanical issues and reduce the risk of future injuries.

Surgery: In some cases, surgical intervention may be necessary to repair severe foot and ankle injuries, such as fractures, ligament tears, or tendon ruptures. Surgical procedures may involve realignment of bones, repair of damaged tissues, or reconstruction of ligaments or tendons.

If you have a foot injury or a condition that’s getting worse, don’t live with the pain.

Athletic Injury Care at Keir Foot & Ankle Specialists

Our practice specializes in sports related injuries. If you or a family member has any of the conditions described above, don’t let it fester. 

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