Sports participation always has a risk of injury. Common Sports Injuries can include stress fractures, sprains, bursitis, metatarsalgia, heel spur syndrome, plantar fasciitis, shin splints, tendinitis, runner’s knee, turf toe and hamstring injuries. Other foot problems which can impact sports participation can be; ingrown toenails, bleeding under the nail, blisters, tinea pedis and onychomycosis (fungal infection of the nails). For all these conditions a podiatric consultation with a podiatrist can help you diagnose, treat and prevent such sport related foot injuries.
Below is a list of common foot injuries in athletes:
Stress fractures are small cracks in bones that often develop from chronic, excessive impact and poor foot function. In runners, the bones of the midfoot (metatarsals) are especially prone to these fractures.
Sprains (e.g. Ankle Sprain)
Sprains are an injury to a ligament, the tough, fibrous tissue that connects bones to other bone. Ligament injuries involve a stretching or a tearing of this tissue. Sprains typically occur when people fall and land on an outstretched arm, slide into base, land on the side of their foot, or twist a knee with the foot planted firmly on the ground. This results in an overstretch or tear of the ligament(s) supporting that joint.
Strain is an injury to either a muscle or a tendon, the tissue that connects muscles to bones. Depending on the severity of the injury, a strain may be a simple overstretch of the muscle or tendon, or it can result in a partial or complete tear. Strains can be acute or chronic. An acute strain is caused by trauma or an injury such as a blow to the body; it can also be caused by improperly lifting heavy objects or overstressing the muscles. Chronic strains are usually the result of overuse – prolonged, repetitive movement of the muscles and tendons.
An inflammation of the fluid-filled sac (bursa) located between the skin of the heel and the tendon. Normally only one bursa is found in the heel, between the Achilles tendon and the heel bone. This bursa may become inflamed, swollen, and painful. Bursitis can also occur in within the metarsophalangeal joint areas (ball of the foot) causing metatarsalgia.
Metatarsalgia is a general term for pain in the area of the metatarsophalangeal joints (ball of the foot). Most common causes include Freiberg’s disease, interdigital nerve pain (Morton’s Neuroma- Interdigital nerve irritation), and capsulitis. Metatarsophalangeal joint (MPJ) pain usually results from tissue changes due to abnormal foot biomechanics. Other causes of metatarsalgia include, Sesamoiditis – pain at the sesamoid bones beneath the head of the 1st metatarsal and Turf toe- pain on movement of the big toe joint due to increased hyperextension of the joint during particular sport activities. Diagnosis for these conditions can be made by your podiatrist within a clinical setting.
A painful condition caused by calcium deposits on the base of the heel putting pressure on other areas of the feet. High impact sports that strain the arch and throw off the natural balance of the foot, like squash and running are the most common causes. Even quick weight gain can be the culprit. Medical assessment is required. A podiatrists may recommend using “non weight bearing” devices such as orthopedic shoes, a walker, crutches, or even a wheelchair or rest. These can help healing by relieving pressure on the injured part of your foot.
Plantar fasciitis (Heel Pain)
The most common cause of heel pain. Inflammation of the dense band of tissue called the plantar fascia that extends from the bottom of the heel bone to the base of the toes (ball of the foot).
Shin splints are injuries to the front of the outer leg. While the exact injury is not known, shin splints seem to result from injury to the tendon (posterior peroneal tendon) and adjacent tissues in the front of the outer leg. Shin splints represent one member of a group of injuries called “overuse injuries.” Shin splints occur most commonly in runners or aggressive walkers.
Achilles Tendinitis is an inflammation of the tendon or sheath surrounding the Achilles Tendon located near mid-calf. Symptoms include pain behind the heel, ankle, and lower calf when you do weight-bearing exercise. Achilles tendinitis is caused by stretching the tendon suddenly or repeatedly when you’re not used to it. Usually, this happens when you exercise too fast or wear the wrong shoes.
Whatever physical activity you do- walking, running, weight lifting-protect your feet by wearing the right athletic shoes for the activity. Also, make sure to stretch out your feet and leg muscles before and after each activity. Try always to stretch the calf and hamstrings.
Runner’s knee (patellofemoral stress syndrome) is a condition in which the kneecap (patella) rubs against the end of the thighbone (femur) when the knee moves. Normally, the kneecap moves up or down slightly without touching the thighbone during running. If the feet excessively pronate, the lower leg twists inward, pulling the kneecap inward, while the quadriceps muscles pull the kneecap outward. These opposing forces cause the back of the kneecap to rub against the end of the thighbone, resulting in pain. Often custom made foot orthotics as prescribed by a podiatrist are required to biomechanically assist the foot to perform correctly.
A hamstring injury is any injury to the hamstring muscles, in the back of the thigh. The hamstrings, which straighten the hip and bend the knee, are weaker than the opposing quadriceps muscles. If the hamstrings are not at least 60% as strong as the quadriceps, the quadriceps overpower and injure them. Immediate treatment includes; R.I.C.E: Rest, Ice, Compression (adhesive strapping), and Elevation. Then after healing begins stretch and strengthening exercises can prevent re-injury.
An ingrown toenail is a condition in which the edges of the nail grow into the surrounding skin. The area is usually red and may be warm; if not treated, it is prone to infection. If infected, the area becomes painful, red, swollen and pus-filled blisters may develop and drain.
Onychomycosis is a fungal infection of the nails. Most commonly, as part of an infection called athlete’s foot. While mild infections may produce few or no symptoms, in severe infections the nails turn white to yellow-brown in color, thicken, and detach from the nail bed.
Subungual Hematoma (Bleeding Under the Nail)
This is a common injury to tennis, soccer players, and runners. It is due to impaction of the 1st toe or the longest toe against the upper of the shoe. Blood from ruptured capillaries collect under the toe nail plate causing pressure and pain. Treatment is required to allow blood to escape and so relieve the pain. A podiatrist can easily treat this painful condition.