An active lifestyle can be hard on our feet and ankles, but athletes aren’t the only ones who suffer from ankle injuries and foot pain.
As amateur and professional athletes hit the fields, courts, and rinks this summer, sports injuries will be on everyone’s mind. The pros take every precaution to avoid hurting their feet or ankles, but the stress and impact from many sports can leave any athlete watching from the sidelines.
Athletes aren’t the only ones who sprain ankles, break bones, and pull muscles! A foot or ankle injury can happen to anyone, especially if you’ve increased your activity level.
Whether you’re on the field or just a fan, here are some common foot and ankle injuries to watch out for:
- Sprained Ankle
- Turf Toe
- Heel Spurs
- Stress Fractures
- Broken Toes
- Tendonitis & Tendonosis
If you’re experiencing pain, don’t shake it off! Trying to “play through the pain” will only increase the damage and lengthen your recovery time. With any foot or ankle injury, stop the activity and see a podiatrist as soon as possible.
Rolled ankle, twisted ankle, sprained ankle, even “floppy ankle” are all terms used for an ankle sprain. Sprains are injuries to ligaments, the tough connective tissue that holds our joints together. They happen when the ankle joint twists or bends too far, causing the ligament to be stretched or even torn.
Often sprains are caused by strenuous activities like sports, but it can happen during any activity – especially if you have weakness or limited flexibility. Uneven ground or improper shoes are also very common causes of twisted ankles.
Doctors grade ankle sprains on a scale of one to three. Grade 1 sprains often have a quick recovery time with simple, at-home treatment. Grade 3 sprains, which involve a torn ligament, are the most serious and may require surgery.
“Turf toe” is a sprain of the big toe. The joint at the base of your big toe can be injured by repeated stress from running or jumping, especially on hard surfaces. It gets its name from artificial turf—when fields started using the harder, springier turf surface, football players started seeing this injury much more frequently.
Whether or not you’re playing football, jamming your toe or increasing your activity level can sprain the ligaments of your big toe joint. This results in nagging toe pain that can make it uncomfortable to walk. If you’re starting a walking or running regimen, take it slow so your body can build strength and flexibility.
Turf toe treatment is usually straightforward, and a podiatrist can also help you make adjustments to your footwear to avoid reinjuring your big toe.
Walking, running, and jumping on hard surfaces can often cause heel pain. Do you wonder if you have heel spurs?
Heel spurs are a bony buildup on the base of your heel bone. They can develop after foot or heel injuries, or simply appear on their own. In some cases they can cause pain or tenderness in the heel. Depending on the severity of the heel spurs, the condition can require foot surgery to fully correct. However, in most cases, your podiatrist will recommend a variety of non-surgical treatments to prevent the further growth of heel spurs and to ease any discomfort.
If you have pain closer to the front of your heel, it’s more likely to be caused by plantar fasciitis—the inflammation of a thick band of tissue connected to your heel bone. In fact, plantar fasciitis is the most common form of heel pain. A podiatrist can diagnose the true cause of your heel pain and make sure you’re getting the right treatment.
Stress fractures are a common cause of foot pain for athletes. Pushing your body to the limits can put extreme stress on the small bones of your feet and ankles. This causes tiny cracks in the bones that support most of our weight.
These bones, especially along the top of the foot, are vulnerable to the impact of many sports, but stress fractures can also occur due to weight gain or a sudden increase in activity level.
Rough or vigorous sports can result in broken toes. Even off the field, athletes still risk breaking their toe like the rest of us—whether it’s a dropped object or hard piece of furniture.
Toe pain can often be simply a sprain. On the other hand, a broken toe will usually be painful to stand or walk on, and show signs of bruising and swelling. Not every broken toe is obvious, but sometimes the toe may be dislocated or misaligned. Seeing a podiatrist immediately will ensure that the broken bone is treated correctly, allowing it to heal properly and avoid further injury.
Tendonitis & Tendonosis
Tendonitis, or the acute inflammation of a tendon, is one of the most common sources of foot and ankle pain. Almost every sport provides an opportunity for exertion and trauma—the typical causes of tendonitis.
Tendonosis is a degeneration, or progressive damage, of the fibers in the tendon. The repetitive stress of sports puts your feet and ankles at risk for both tendonitis and tendonosis. Also, frequent sprains—common in sports—can increase your risk.
Of course, tendon pain can occur even if you’re not an athlete. And some forms of tendonitis may be a sign of other, ongoing foot or ankle problems that should be corrected as well.
Treating Foot & Ankle Sports Injuries
Don’t play through the pain if you’ve experienced a foot or ankle injury. Podiatrists are physicians specializing in the diagnosis and treatment of all foot and ankle conditions, and should be your first call if your pain isn’t going away or is getting worse. Prompt treatment is important to avoid long-term damage.
With any foot or ankle condition, part of your treatment should be a strategy to prevent the injury from recurring. Your podiatrist can help you find braces, inserts, or shoes that will keep you out on the field and injury-free.