Your feet and ankles are complex structures, containing numerous bones, muscles, and connective tissues. The lower appendages have to be intricately structured because they face incredible force loads and perform highly important functions, especially during sports and exercise!
For some people, playing sports is a way of staying fit, having fun, and being social. For others, participating in sports is a chosen profession. No matter if you’re a weekend warrior or a professional athlete, you simply must take care of your feet to be able to participate in the sports you love.
Any game or athletic activity—like soccer, basketball, running or hiking—can place tremendous strain on your lower limbs and potentially result in any of the common foot and ankle sports injuries. Our doctors at our Centerville, OH podiatry office are trained to treat all types of sport injuries. Understanding these injuries will enable you to take measures to prevent them from happening in the first place.
Injuries Can Happen to Anyone
A sports injury is any type of painful problem that arises as a result of participation in an athletic activity. Typically, these injuries can be divided into two categories: overuse and trauma-induced.
Overuse – The feet have been overworked and can no longer handle the strain. Repetitive motions and hard impacts, or simply changing or adding to your routine when your body is not prepared, can be enough to create a problem. Painful damage develops as a result. Usually, the discomfort increases over time as the injury worsens.
Trauma – This is an accident that you generally cannot prevent. It happens suddenly and creates immediate pain and damage to your lower limbs. You often lose mobility or strength in the affected limb that makes it difficult or impossible to continue in your sport until you’ve healed.
In either case, no matter how your problem developed, you need treatment to take care of it. In most cases, the injury worsens if it goes untreated, potentially leading to long-term or permanent complications.
Painful Problems to Watch
There are many different sports injuries. Here are just a few of the more common ones that affect the lower limbs:
- Achilles tendon problems – This includes both inflammation and a tear of the body’s largest tendon
- Ankle sprains – Rolling and twisting an ankle can damage the supporting ligaments
- Blisters – Friction on skin creates these painful sores
- Fractures – A sudden impact can crack bone tissue, but so too can lesser impacts that add up over time
- Metatarsalgia – Repetitive pounding can cause inflammation in the forefoot and make it difficult to push off the ground
- Plantar fasciitis – The most common cause of heel pain, this is a persistent injury
- Shin splints – Overuse can lead to burning shins that make running very difficult
- Stress fractures – Repeated hard impacts can create small but painful cracks in your bones
- Turf toe – A painful sprain in your big toe
Sports Injury Treatment
Typically, taking care of sports injuries involves several stages of foot care: diagnosis, treatment, rehab, and an eventual return to your favorite activities. Dr. Kevin Sunshein and our staff at Sunshein Podiatry Associates will carefully examine your foot or ankle to identify the exact injury, then we develop an effective treatment plan to get you back into action at the earliest opportunity.
Across the board, you will generally need to take time away from high-impact activities and limit the amount of stress you place on your lower limbs. Depending on your injury, you may need to immobilize your injured foot or ankle until healed. This may include a walking boot or cast. You will also need to take steps to minimize swelling and inflammation, such as wrapping your foot in a compression bandage or icing it per doctors orders. After the initial damage has healed you may need physical therapy or rehab program to restore flexibility, strength, range of motion and conditioning for your sport.
Sports Injury Prevention
There are many ways to potentially become injured while playing sports and staying active. With this in mind, we are going to adhere to some more general guidelines that transfer easily from sport to sport. These foot and ankle sports injury prevention tips include:
- Condition your muscles. Cross-training to both strengthen and increase the flexibility of lower limb muscles will improve your overall health and keep you safe. Even better, mix in low-impact activities to decrease the odds of developing a stress fracture in a foot, ankle, or leg bone.
- Listen to your body. The old saying “no pain, no gain” needs to stay in the past. If you're experiencing pain, something is wrong. If something is wrong, stop the activity and then treat the affected area. Even better, have us provide professional care for you!
- Replace worn out footwear. Shoes are not intended to last forever, so pick up new ones once your current pair(s) starts to lose cushioning and arch support.
- Use braces to prevent recurrent injuries. If you have sustained an ankle sprain, protect your ankle with a brace or athletic wrap to prevent recurrent ankle injuries.
- Warm up and stretch. Many sports injuries could have been prevented if the injured participant had taken a little time to prepare his or her body before intense activity. A light warmup and dynamic stretches can help reduce the risk of injury!
- Wear the right shoes. Activity-appropriate footwear—especially pairs that fit correctly—will make it less likely you become hurt while playing a sport.
- Custom Orthotics. Many sports injuries occur from improper alignment of the foot, leg and spinal alignment. Recurring injuries may also be treated with custom orthotics to realign your foot.
Foot and ankle injuries shouldn’t keep you from your favorite sports and activities forever! With the right foot care, sports injuries certainly do not have to keep you sidelined indefinitely. The key for this is early treatment, so invest in your health by addressing the issue instead of allowing it to worsen over time. Contact Dr. Sunshein and our team by calling (937) 435-7477 for additional information or to request your appointment with our Centerville, OH office.