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Family Foot & Ankle

To the Athlete with the Sports Injury

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Staying active and healthy is important no matter your age. But even though there are endless benefits to being physically active, there is also a certain degree of injury risk, as well.

In fact, sports injuries to the foot and ankle are particularly common. And this should come as no surprise since you rely primarily on your lower limbs whenever you are out there charging through the field or racing to the finish line.

From the repeated impact your feet receive on hard surfaces to the twisting motion of your ankles as you dribble up the court, your feet are essentially prime candidates for trauma. That’s true whether you are always playing sports or just an occasional athlete – regardless of how committed you are to the game, you should always be on the lookout for common foot and ankle conditions.

Sports Injury

It is worth noting that although many injuries which result in foot conditions are caused by repeated physical impact, foot and ankle problems can also develop from wearing improper footwear. Often times, painful injuries are a result of a combination of both, constant contact with surfaces and ill-fitting shoes.

These injuries can range from minor blisters to severe fractures. But the one common factor amongst all these conditions is this:

They should never be ignored – if you feel any type of pain, you should immediately address the situation.

After all, “an ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure.”

So, let’s talk a little more about some of the most common sports injuries and what you can do whenever – and if ever – you experience a foot or ankle problem.

Common Foot and Ankle Sports Injuries

After a friendly game of football or a successful run in the local 5K, you can expect to feel some aches and pains – this is not unusual. But sometimes discomfort can become more than just a temporary inconvenience.

That is why it is important to be familiar with potential injuries so that you know when and how to address them, and this includes issues like:

  • Sprains and strains. Sprains and strains are the most common types of sports injuries and usually occur when you overuse or overstretch soft tissue – strains happen when the tendons or muscle fibers are injured, while sprains occur because the ligaments are stretched or torn.

The usual symptoms are: sharp, sudden pain followed by weakness; difficulty bearing weight or moving your ankle around; swelling and bruising.  

  • Toenail injuries. Though these types of injuries can occur if your shoes are too tight, simply wearing shoes while you exercise may also cause this problem. This is especially true if you play a sport that requires quick movements that push your toes against the ends or tops of your shoes.

The usual symptoms are: toenail(s) may become ingrown, turn black, or separate from the toe.

  • Tendon injuries. Painful tendon injuries occur as a result of intense exercise, sprains, trauma and muscle imbalances. They may affect your arch, heel, the Achilles tendon, the extensor tendon on the top of your foot or the peroneal tendon on the side of your foot.

The usual symptoms are: pain – especially after performing sports and exercises – tenderness and/or stiffness.

  • Fractures. Stress fractures are typically caused by overuse – after repetitive jumping and running motions, tiny cracks in the bone begin to develop and may grow overtime if left untreated.

The usual symptoms are: swelling, gradual pain which becomes worse when performing activities (and decreases after rest).

If you ever suspect any of these types of injuries has occurred to you, then you should immediately stop whatever you are doing, remove your shoes, elevate your legs and apply ice to the area in pain.

You should also contact our office as soon as you can in order to schedule an appointment at one of our Family Foot & Ankle Center offices to properly evaluate your condition, determine a diagnosis, and provide the most beneficial treatment for your specific situation.

Icing sore ankle

Use the R.I.C.E. Treatment

While you wait to come visit us, you should use the R.I.C.E treatment at home. Below are some instructions on how to properly do this.

  • Rest. It is important that you protect the area in pain from any additional pressure or stress – so stop all activities, at least until you are able to come visit us for evaluation. If you still want to stay active, then choose low-impact exercises like swimming or cycling.
  • Ice. Often our patients wonder if it is better to use ice or heat to treat a painful foot condition. The short answer is that for the purpose of treating any potential swelling, ice is definitely the best choice – apply a cold pack for about 15 minutes, 3 times a day for the first 72 hours.
  • Compression. Wrap the sore area with the firm pressure of a soft elastic material, such as a cushioned bandage. This will help decrease the swelling and irritation. Although, it is important not to wrap your foot or ankle too tightly – if you begin to feel any tingling or numbness, then it is best to loosen the bandage.
  • Elevation. Keeping the area elevated above the level of your heart will help diminish the swelling. So whenever you are lying in bed or on the couch, try using a few pillows to cushion and prop up your leg.

The good news is that, when caught early, foot and ankle pain can be easily treated. However, many of us tend to delay medical treatment in fear that we will have to discontinue our sport(s) of choice.

But delaying treatment won’t solve the problem. In fact, doing so will most likely result in more serious injuries in the future – and these may require more extensive care and treatments, including surgery.

When to See a Podiatrist?

So if you frequently participate in sports and other physical activities, it is imperative that you pay close attention to your feet and ankles.

Yes – ice and rest can be helpful to some extent, but a prompt visit to the podiatrist will ensure that you avoid any further damage to your foot or ankle. Some good indicators that you should seek medical advice include:

  • Bruising or bleeding at the site of an injury
  • Black toenails that pull away from the toe
  • Persistent or extreme swelling
  • Persistent or extreme pain
  • Difficulty walking

And remember – don’t push through the pain. Though sports injuries are very common, you should never dismiss them as normal or “not a big deal.” When you address the situation early in the game, the easier it will be for you to recover and get back to playing the sports you love.

We Can Help You Today!

If you have any questions, or if you suspect that you have sustained a foot or ankle injury, just contact one of our six convenient locations in Cincinnati—we have three offices in Cincy!—Fairfield, Florence, or Hamilton at (888) 689-3317. You can also use our handy request form online.

Dr. Cynthia Miller
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Dr. Cynthia Miller is a board certified podiatrist who has been established in the Cincinnati area since 2004.
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