The Pain of Sports: Foot & Ankle Injuries

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Your feet and ankles are an important part of your life! They help you move around, stay balanced, run, shift, turn and everything in between. It’s important to take care of them, especially if you’re using them all day. Discover the most common types of foot and ankle pain that can affect everyone and what specific foot and ankle issues plague athletes.

Most Common Types of Foot and Ankle Pain

The common  sources of pain that are diagnosed by the providers at UnityPoint Clinic - Foot and Ankle are:

1. Heel Pain

This type of pain can occur on the bottom of the heel, in the arch of the foot, or on the back of the heel. The pain can sometimes be so severe that you can’t put weight on your foot.

2. Tendonitis of the Foot and Ankle 

The tendons in the feet and ankle are responsible for the movement of those body parts. Tendonitis is the swelling of those tendons and  can be identified by pain and stiffness in the areas around a tendon. Occasionally, visible swelling is also prevalent in the area.

3. Foot and Ankle Fractures

A fracture means the same as a broken bone, however, the severity of the break can range from pieces of bone that have splintered off to a bone that has broken in half. Fractures can be identified by swelling, pain, bruising, or blisters around the area of the injury. The area of the fracture may look visibly different from the other foot or ankle, and you may have difficulty walking or putting weight on the injured foot or ankle.

4. General Foot Strains

Strains in the foot occur when a muscle or tendon is overstretched. This overstretching can also cause a minor or complete tear in the muscle or tendon. A sprain can include pain, swelling and bruising around the area, and problems putting weight on the injured foot. Major sprains should be examined by a doctor to check for a fracture. 

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Dr. Valerie Tallerico, DPM, at UnityPoint Clinic - Foot and Ankle at Sunnybrook sat down to discuss these foot and ankle problems, as well as how your shoe inserts could be hurting your feet.






Common Foot and Ankle Sports Injuries 

While many people suffer from foot and ankle pain due to everyday living, some people can suffer from athletic-induced foot and ankle injuries. High school and college student-athletes put a lot of strain and pressure on the joints in the ankles and feet. Find out what sports-related injuries and pain you should look out for in your kids.

Ankle Sprains (Inversion Ankle Sprains)

Ankle sprains are very common in athletics and occur most often when a ligament in the ankle tears. The tear is caused by the rolling of the foot under the leg or ankle. It usually happens on the outside of the ankle and causes pain, swelling, and bruising.

Common sports for ankle sprains: baseball, softball, martial arts, gymnastics, dance, cheerleading, basketball, field hockey, football, lacrosse, rugby, soccer, tennis, and volleyball.

Peroneal Tendonitis

The peroneal tendons are located on the outside of the ankle behind the fibula, and they control how you move your ankle to the outside. They connect your muscles to your bone. When these tendons become enlarged and swollen, it’s called tendonitis. Repetitive use of these tendons  during a sports activity can cause pain in the back of the ankle.

Common sports for peroneal tendonitis: baseball, basketball, field hockey, football, lacrosse, rugby, soccer, softball, tennis, and volleyball.

Fractures

A fracture is the partial or complete break in a bone in your ankle or foot. Dramatic fractures can cause damage to ligaments and tendons. The signs of a fracture include pain that can range from the foot to the knee, swelling, blisters, bruising, an inability to bear weight on the foot or ankle, and, in severe cases, bones sticking out of the skin.

Common sports for fractures: baseball, basketball, field hockey, football, lacrosse, rugby, soccer, softball, tennis, volleyball, martial arts, and dance.

Stress Fractures

A stress fracture is a tiny crack in the bones from overuse. Tired muscles stop absorbing the added shock of repetitive athletic movements, and that shock is then distributed to the bone. The most common symptom of a stress fracture is pain while participating in an activity. This pain goes away when the athlete rests.

Common sports for stress fractures: basketball, field hockey, football, lacrosse, rugby, running, soccer, tennis, volleyball, and dance.

Chronic Ankle Instability

The American Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Society indicates that about 30% of athletes who receive an ankle sprain will develop chronic ankle instability. The signs of this condition includes your ankle “giving away” while your walking, standing or doing another activity. It can also include persistent pain, swelling, and tenderness in the ankle.

Common sports for chronic ankle instability: baseball, basketball, softball, and volleyball.

Heel Pain (Plantar fasciitis)

Plantar fasciitis is a condition that causes inflammation and pain in the tissue that connects your heel to your toes. The pain occurs at the bottom of your heel when you first get out of bed, when you stand after sitting for an extended period, or after participating in an activity. Initially, the pain is mild, but it gradually becomes worse. If plantar fasciitis isn’t treated, it can become a chronic problem.

Common sports for heel pain: baseball, basketball, field hockey, football, golf, lacrosse, rugby, running, soccer, softball, tennis, volleyball, martial arts, and dance.

Heel Pain in Children (calcaneal apophysitis)

Between the ages of eight and 14, children’s heels are growing and developing. This new bone formation at the back of the heel creates weak areas that are susceptible to overuse. Signs of calcaneal apophysitis in children include pain, limping, walking on their toes, trouble participating in usual activities, and pain when the heel is squeezed.

Common sports for heel pain in children: baseball, basketball, field hockey, football, lacrosse, rugby, running, soccer, softball, tennis, and volleyball.

Achilles Tendonitis

This condition occurs when the big tendon that you can feel running down the back of your ankle becomes swollen. This could be caused by an intense or repetitive activity, or also by the natural aging process. The symptoms include aching, burning, swelling, enlargement, and tenderness of the tendon.

Common sports for Achilles tendonitis: baseball, basketball, field hockey, football, lacrosse, rugby, running, soccer, tennis, volleyball, martial arts, gymnastics, and dance.

Contusions

The definition of a contusion is the crushing of the muscle fibers and connective tissues without breaking the skin. This foot or ankle injury occurs during contact sports or sports that involve high-speed objects, like baseballs. The symptoms often include swelling, pain, stiff or poorly functioning joints, bluish discoloration, and a lump over the injury called a hematoma, which is a pool of blood.

Common sports for contusions: baseball, football, rugby, soccer, and softball.

Sesamoid Injury

Sesamoids are bones in the foot that are only connected to muscles or tendons, not other bones. Two of these bones are located on the bottom of your foot under your big toe. These little bones help with tendon and muscle function in the foot. The symptoms of a sesamoid injury are pain on the ball of the foot, swelling, bruising, and difficulty bending the big toe.

Common sports for sesamoid injuries: baseball, basketball, field hockey, football, lacrosse, rugby, running, soccer, tennis, volleyball, martial arts, and dance.

Keep your feet up to speed! Know the warning signs of a foot or ankle injury to prevent any further damage to two of your most important appendages. If your feet or ankles are experiencing  pain, reach out to  UnityPoint Clinic - Foot and Ankle to discuss the potential of relieving your foot and ankle pain. 

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