Foot and ankle injuries are common among people who participate in sports. Several factors can contribute to these injuries, including failing to stretch or warm up properly, not wearing the proper type of shoe, and not taping or providing other types of support for the ankle or foot. The most common foot and ankle injuries suffered by people involved in sports are plantar fasciitis, ankle sprains, and Achilles tendon damage or ruptures. If not treated properly, these conditions can lead to long-lasting problems.
Plantar fasciitis is a painful condition. It is inflammation of the plantar fascia, or the thick fibrous band of tissue running from the heel to the base of the toes. There are several effective treatments for this ailment. Doctors often prescribe rest, massages, stretching, night splints, physical therapy, anti-inflammatory medication, corticosteroids, or surgery. Plantar fasciitis often responds successfully to orthotics, or foot inserts. Surgery is occasionally used as a last resort.
The Achilles tendon is the largest tendon in the body. It connects the calf muscles to the heel bone. Running, jumping, and walking can all impact this tendon. Two common injuries to the Achilles tendon are tendonitis and a rupture of the tendon. Achilles tendonitis is inflammation in the tendon often caused by an increase in the amount and intensity of stress placed on it. It can be treated non-surgically with rest, ice, or anti-inflammatory medication. In some cases, surgery may be required. A rupture of the Achilles tendon can be treated by placing the lower leg in a cast for several weeks or with surgery. Both methods require 4 to 6 months of rehabilitation.
Ankle sprains are the most common sports related foot and ankle injury. A sprain occurs when the ligament holding the ankle bones and joint stretches beyond its normal range. It can be treated non-surgically with a combination of rest, ice, compression by a bandage, and elevating the ankle. This combination is referred to as RICE. Severe ankle sprains in which the ligaments are torn may require arthroscopic or reconstructive surgery followed by rehabilitation.
Treating these injuries is relatively simple if they are identified and addressed early. Many athletes dismiss the initial aches and pains associated with injury as soreness or tired muscles. Their first response is often to try working through the pain, which can lead to serious problems. Many minor injuries become more serious when athletes continue to put strain and pressure on them. Athletes should have unusual aches and pains evaluated by a skilled, licensed medical professional.