Common Foot and Ankle Problems Among Athletes

Heel-PainAnytime a person engages in sports, they are running the risk of suffering an
injury to the foot and ankle. Many of the injuries that cause foot ailments and pain are caused by high-impact sports, such as running. Other times foot problems can arise from wearing improper footwear or from inadequate training.

There are a number of foot conditions that an athlete can suffer from, including ingrown toenails, athlete’s foot and blisters. Let’s take a brief look at two of the more serious and most common conditions: plantar fasciitis and ankle sprains. When these conditions occur, your podiatrist is available to provide you with the best treatment available.

Heel Pain Caused By Plantar Fasciitis

Plantar fasciitis is one of the most common foot ailments experienced by runners and the most common cause of heel pain. The plantar fascia is a thick, dense tissue that runs from the ball of the foot along the arch, connecting to the heel. People with flat feet or individuals who overpronate are more susceptible to heel pain because of the increased stress that occurs at the heel.

Many times the pain is worse in the morning when you first get up, but subsides as you move around throughout the day. Treatment will vary depending on each case, but generally rest, ice and stretching can help ease the pain. When conservative treatments aren’t effective and the pain persists, see your podiatrist for recommended treatment, such as orthotics.

Ankle Sprains

Caused by an unnatural twisting or force on the ankle bones, an ankle sprain is one of the most common injuries experienced by athletes. The severity of a sprain will depend on the extent of the stretching and tearing of ligaments. How severe the tear is will determine how long it takes for your ankle to heal – sometimes up to several months. When a sprain first occurs, there will likely be chronic ankle pain. The ankle will swell, and discoloration may occur.

The RICE (rest, ice, compression, and elevation) procedure should be administered right away for an ankle sprain. Serious ankle sprains, particularly among competitive athletes, may require surgery to repair and tighten the damaged ligaments. If you’re prone to ankle sprains, avoid running on uneven terrain and wear firm, supportive footwear for improved stability. Unfortunately ankle sprains are often recurring. Your podiatrist can help determine the severity of your sprain and the necessary course of treatment, including exercises to strengthen your weak ankle.

Heel pain and ankle sprains can be easily treated, yet many athletes delay proper treatment for fear of discontinuing their favorite sport.  Delaying treatment will only make the injury worse, often times leading to a far more serious injury that requires extensive care and treatment. If you frequently participate in sports and other physical activities, it’s important to pay close attention to your feet and ankles as they are placed under tremendous pressure and are at high risk for injury.

Remember to train properly for your specific activity and wear supportive shoes that offer stability for your specific sport.  If you are experiencing pain for extended periods of time, take time to rest. Chronic pain likely indicates a serious foot problem and continuing to play your sport will only make matters worse. Talk to your podiatrist about the best ways to prevent and treat common sports-related foot injuries.