According to a study on National Collegiate Athletic Association sports, 50% of athletic injuries occur in the lower extremities, particularly those in the foot and ankle area. These injuries are more common in sports that combine jumping and rapid changes in direction, with sports like basketball, volleyball and gymnastics placing considerable demands on the feet.
Sports injuries can be painful and challenging to deal with, often taking you away from your game. Learning about common foot injuries athletes suffer can help you recognize symptoms and help prevent injuries from occurring.
1. Ankle Sprains or Strains
A sprain is an injury involving the ligament, the connective tissue that attaches two bones at a joint. A strain is torn or stretched tendon or muscle. With the twisting and turning involved in sports, sprains and strains are common foot injuries athletes experience. In fact, acute ankle sprains account for 16-40% of all sports-related injuries.
A sprained ankle can be mild with minimal pain or severe and make walking and standing challenging and painful. Inversion ankle sprains are the most common, caused by twisting the foot inward. This motion results in external ligament damage as they become stretched. Eversion sprains are caused by turning the foot outward, often resulting in severe damage to the inside ankle ligaments.
Ankle strains often occur when the ankle awkwardly rolls, twists or turns, stretching or tearing the ligaments. Both strains and sprains can lead to swelling, pain and a limited range of motion. While you might be able to treat mild sprains or strains at home with rest, ice and pain relievers, severe injuries require medical evaluation.
The Achilles tendon is on the back of the ankle, just above the foot. It connects the muscles to your calf, the back of your leg and your heel bone. Overusing the Achilles tendon or suddenly increasing your activity can cause the tendon to become inflamed, a condition called tendinitis.
Repeated actions, such as jumping or running, can lead to tendinitis. It can also be made worse by poor technique, conditioning and nutrition. Consequently, Achilles tendon injuries are very common among athletes.
Because the injury typically results from carrying out the same motion repeatedly, golfers and tennis players have a higher risk of experiencing tendinitis. Further, tendons become less flexible as you age, increasing your risk of getting tendinitis as you age.
Tendinitis usually lasts for 10 days or less. While you can typically treat it with rest, more severe injuries can lead to tears, which may require surgery.
3. Dislocated Joints
Dislocation involves one of your joins being knocked or pushed out of its usual place. A joint is where two bones meet. Any joint in the body can be dislocated due to sports injuries, including the fingers, elbows, shoulders, hips and jaw. Dislocations can be painful and make it challenging to use the affected joint. Dislocations can also tear or strain around the joint tissues in your muscles, nerves, blood vessels and tendons.
Symptoms vary depending on the joint affected. However, common ones include pain, swelling and bruising. You might also notice the joint looking as if it’s out of place or different and find it difficult or impossible to use it. People who play contact sports like football, hockey, wrestling or lacrosse are at a higher risk of experiencing a dislocation.
A health care professional will need to put the joint back in its correct place to treat the injury. They’ll also check for broken bones in or around the joint to ensure no other damage has been done.
4. Plantar Fasciitis
Among the common feet and sports injuries, plantar fasciitis causes ligament pain on the sole of your feet where the heel and toes connect. The condition occurs when the plantar fascia, a group of tissues that supports your foot’s arch, absorbs too much stress.
It might arise from running or jumping repeatedly in sports, leading to inflammation and pain at the bottom of the heel. Other risk factors include tight calf muscles, flat feet or a sudden increase in activity level.
Plantar fasciitis is prevalent, with over 2 million people in the United States treated for it each year. Rest, ice and physical therapy can effectively resolve the condition. However, a visit to a podiatrist can help solve severe cases and prevent the pain from recurring. Professionals might also recommend calf stretches or any exercise that stretches the calves and feet to relieve pain.
5. Heel Spurs
Heel spurs are calcium deposits that develop on the heel bone, often caused by strains on ligaments and foot muscles, plantar fascia stretching or repeated tearing of the heel bone membrane.
Athletes with flat feet or high arches are more prone to getting this condition. Other risk factors include a lack of support from shoes, running on hard surfaces, regular jumping or running, and diseases like diabetes.
Heel spurs can range from painless to extremely painful, especially when standing or walking. Most people treat the condition non-surgically with physical therapy, orthotics, heel stretching exercises and anti-inflammatory medicine.
6. Stress Fractures
Stress fractures occur when repeated stress is placed on the bone or muscles to the point where they can’t properly absorb the impact. Not to be confused with a fracture, which is a broken bone, stress fractures cause small cracks in the bone.
Ankle stress fractures are common foot injuries among those who participate in sports like running, tennis, dance, basketball and gymnastics due to repetitive stress on the ankles and feet. A lack of conditioning, poor technique or improper equipment can also increase a person’s risk of stress fractures.
Symptoms can include pain, swelling or aching at the location of the fracture and tenderness. Pain might begin after starting an activity and then resolve with rest. Without diagnosis and treatment in the early stages, pain can become severe and require surgery.
Neuromas are among the most common sports-related foot injuries athletes experience, associated with tingling, pain and numbness in the ball of the foot. The condition involves a pinched nerve in the foot, with athletes experiencing pain between the toes while walking.
There’s no exact cause of neuroma. However, risk factors include flat feet or high arches, improper footwear, overuse or stress and trauma. These factors can lead to inflammation, stress and instability, which may cause a neuroma.
Non-surgical treatment is standard for a neuroma. Podiatrists might also recommend finding more supportive footwear or using orthotic inserts to relieve pain. They may administer corticosteroid injections to reduce inflammation, as well.
Contact Foot & Ankle Surgical Associates for Feet and Sports Injuries
Athletes can experience many foot injuries, whether they’re a result of overuse, improper footwear or conditioning. If you experience any foot or ankle injury, Foot & Ankle Surgical Associates can help. We have extensive experience with sports injuries and can treat various conditions to help you get back to your game and the activities you love the most.
To schedule an appointment, call us today at 360-754-3338 or fill out a contact form.