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Foot and ankle injuries in Athletes, athlete foot, common problems with athletes

Common foot and ankle injuries amongst athletes

A lot of us today, regardless of age, are involved in sports to stay fit and active. Due to our hectic schedules during the week, many of us fall in the “weekend warrior” category. Basically, we indulge in physical activity during weekends and holidays. In such cases, due to the fact that our bodies are not used to regular physical activity, performing sports without adequate warm-up and training can result in injuries. Foot and ankle regions are one of the most common areas of sports injuries. According to American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, it accounts for 25% of athletic injuries.

In our country, sports injuries are commonly seen in sports such as running, soccer, badminton, cricket and basketball. Most of these injuries are caused by accidents and trauma. However, poor training practices, improper equipment, insufficient warm up and lack of condition can also result in serious injuries. 

It is hence extremely important that one should warm up before starting any type of sport, wear shoes that are designed for your foot type and change them when they wear out. Proper conditioning of the muscles by gradually increasing intensity of the sport as well as playing in appropriate conditions (such as running on an even surface) can also significantly reduce the risk of injury. 

Common foot and ankle injuries in athletes

While sportspersons can suffer from a wide range of orthopaedic problems based on the type of sport they play. There are some injuries that are more common, especially in athletes. Here are the 5 most common foot and ankle injuries that sportspersons experience:

Ankle sprain

The ankle is made up of complex connections between tiny delicate bones and soft tissues (muscles, tendons and ligaments) that keep the joint in its place. Ankle sprains are considered to be one of the most common injuries seen amongst athletes. Sprains generally occur due to the twisting movement of the foot resulting in damage to the ligaments present in the ankle. Ankle sprains are further categorised into two types: Inversion and Eversion. 

Amongst the two, inversion sprains are more common and involved the inward twisting of the ankle. In such cases the ligaments on the outer aspect of the ankle are damaged. On the other hand, eversion sprains are caused by the outward twisting of the ankle, affecting the ligaments on the inner side. These are significantly rare as compared to inversion sprains.

Most sprains are minor and require rest, ice and protection to heal. In some cases, however, lack of treatment can result in lifelong pain and disability. Especially if the ankle isn’t healing correctly. In such cases, it is essential to consult a foot and ankle specialist

Read: Foot and ankle pain: everything you need to know

Achilles tendinitis

Achilles is the largest tendon present in the body. It runs from the back of the leg to the heel. Achilles tendinitis is a condition that affects this tendon. It usually occurs due to exertion and extreme stress and hence is common among sportspeople. It can also be caused due to aging and degeneration. It presents as pain and swelling in the back of the heel that can make it difficult for the affected person to walk and run. Patients suffering from achilles tendinitis are also prone to develop a tear in the achilles tendon. This condition can be effectively managed with rest, ice, analgesia, appropriate footwear and physical therapy.

Stress fractures

As the name suggests, stress fractures are fine fractures or cracks that are caused by repetitive force or overuse. They have commonly seen in runners as well as people engaging in sports that involve the legs such as dancing, gymnastics etc. The main reason behind this is the fatigue of bones in the ankle and feet due to excessive repeated loading. The bones in the feet (metatarsals) are most commonly affected bones when it comes to stress fractures. Patients with stress fractures can experience soreness, pain and bruising over the area of stress without any history of trauma. Treatment of stress fractures involves immobilising the foot with the help of plaster/boot as well as staying away from exertion till the fracture heals.

Plantar fasciitis

Plantar fasciitis occurs when excessive stress is placed on the plantar fasciitis (band of tissues supporting the arch of the foot). It causes inflammation in the tissues resulting in pain at the bottom of the heel. Many patients complain of severe pain in the heel after the first steps taken in the morning or after long periods of inactivity. In many cases, a heel spur can be seen on the X-ray. Ice, heel pads in shoes and physical therapy involving calf and plantar fascia stretches are used to manage this condition. 

Also, read: Severe pain in heels during the morning: do I have Plantar Fasciitis?

Turf toe

Another common sports-related injury that occurs amongst sportspeople is the “turf toe”. Turf toe is a term used to describe a sprain in the ligaments of the big toe. This medical condition can occur when the heel is lifted off the ground and repetitive stress is applied to the big toe due to its hyperextended position. It was so named as it was commonly seen amongst American footballers who used to play on artificial turfs. However, it is also commonly observed in players of other sports such as basketball, gymnastics, wrestling and dance. It results in pain, swelling and stiffness in the base of the big toe that can manifest either after a sudden trauma or with repetitive loads. Doctors generally treat this condition with rest, anti-inflammatory medication, ice and taping. 

It is easy for most of us to overlook problems with our feet. In reality, most conditions involving the feet manifest gradually over a period of time. If they are not caught early on and give the proper treatment, it can worsen to severely impact the quality of life. So, pay attention to your feet and make sure you are wearing the footwear designed for the sport to minimise the risk of injury.

If you notice any of such condition, do not ignore, consult the best orthopaedics doctor in Gurgaon today or book your visit to the CK Birla Hospital for your foot or ankle related problems.

Read: Four types of foot pain you should not ignore

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Author: Dr Anuj Chawla
Dr. Anuj Chawla is a distinguished orthopaedic surgeon with over 15 years of experience across several reputed institutions across the globe. He specializes in foot and ankle disorders, sports injuries, and geriatric trauma.
 
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