Math concepts can be hard to understand sometimes, but for most of us, one equation is obvious: playing sports = increased risk for injury. You don’t need to be a math whiz to understand why. All the running, leaping, dashing around, twisting and body contact can stress your body beyond what it can bear, and you can end up with pain, swelling, or more serious damage.
Common Sports Injuries in Feet and Ankles
Your feet and ankles are composed of several types of tissues: bones, ligaments, tendons, muscles, and nerves. Let’s take a look at some of the more common ways these tissues can be injured while playing sports:
- Muscles and tendons are usually hurt by stretching them too much or too quickly, leading to problems like swelling, strains, or tears in the tissue. Achilles tendinitis is a common injury in athletes and recreational players who engage in strenuous activity without conditioning the tendons beforehand. A good stretching routine helps keep muscles and tendons more limber and ready for action, and certain exercises that increase their strength can help prevent damage as well.
- Sprains involve the ligaments that hold the bones of a joint together. These tough bands of fiber are also susceptible to stretching and tearing when you subject the joint to an unusual twist or pull. This happens quite commonly to the ankle joint when playing sports that involve quick changes in direction. The joint becomes painful and swollen and may be unstable. It is crucial to make sure these injuries heal completely to lessen the risk of repeated sprains or a chronic problem with ankle instability.
- Bones can become dislocated or fracture with a severe impact, but they can also develop small cracks in the surface from small amounts of repeated trauma over time. Broken bones—even small stress fractures—need several weeks to heal, and then more time with physical therapy to regain full strength and function. Recovery usually involves at least some time off your feet, and severe breaks will likely mean a cast and crutches.
- Sports injuries involving nerves are less common but usually involve entrapment or compression on the nerve that causes pain. Examples include a neuroma that develops in a nerve between two toes, or when another injury like a sprain causes tissue swelling that puts pressure on a nerve.
When to Have a Podiatrist Treat Your Sports Injury
Most sports injuries in feet and ankles should be treated with RICE therapy immediately. This involves resting the foot and using ice packs, compression and elevation to reduce pain and swelling. If these measures don’t help in a day or two, or if the injury is more severe, don’t wait to come in for an evaluation.
Yuko Miyazaki, DPM has specialized training and experience in foot and ankle problems. She also understands the structure and function of feet and ankles in a unique way that adds up to excellence in diagnosing and treating sports injuries. Call the office in Berkeley, CA at (510) 647-3744 to schedule your appointment with us, or use the contact form on this website. We’ll help you heal well so you can enjoy your favorite sport again!