Foot and ankle injuries are common for athletes who play a fall-season sport. Football, soccer and volleyball players, as well as cross country runners, all run the riskand these injuries should not be taken lightly.
"Stress fractures of the foot, ankle sprains and ligament injuries are all, unfortunately, quite common in popular fall sports," says Dr. David Davidson, a member of the American Podiatric Medical Association [APMA] and podiatric medical consultant to the Buffalo Bills. "From maintaining proper conditioning to wearing sport-specific footwear, athletes can function at peak performance much more often when constantly maintaining high levels of foot-care safety."
The following are some of the most common acute injuries in fall sports, together with treatments and preventative tips recommended by the APMA:
Sprains: Hard sprinting often leads to stretched or torn ligaments, also known as sprains. Severe sprains may also cause ankle swelling, much like a fracture.
Treatment: Sprains that don't improve after three days should be seen immediately by a doctor. Casting, immobilization and a rehabilitation regimen may all be prescribed.
Tips to avoid sprains: Take part in proper warm-up exercises before and after workouts, practice and games. Spend five to 10 minutes stretching, holding and relaxing muscles.
Fractures: Occur when a bone is broken
Treatment: Casting is required (and, sometimes, surgery) to properly immobilize the foot or ankle and to set breaks. Rehab follows, usually for 10 to 12 weeks.
Tips to avoid fractures: Look for sport-specific footwear that contains extra padding, which helps to prevent stress fractures. Also, incomplete fractures can be caused by overuse.
Turf Toe: Named for the artificial surface on which it often occurs, Turf Toe is a painful hyperextension of the big-toe joint. While competing on artificial turf is the leading cause of this condition, it also can occur on natural surfaces such as grass.
Treatment: Usually involves the "RICE" regimen, which stands for Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation.
Tips to avoid turf toe: Customized foot orthotics can be worn. Also, wearing a stiffer shoe can prevent aggravating this injury.
For more information about sports-related injuries to the foot and ankle, visit www.apma.org/sports.
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