Your feet and ankles support most of your body weight, and they work together to provide you with the support and mobility you need. But foot and ankle injuries are common, especially for athletes and those who return to an exercise program too soon after being hurt or those who are less active. Most of these injuries aren’t life-threatening and, over time, will heal on their own with the right care and treatment. Our podiatrists discuss a variety of sports-related foot and ankle injuries, what causes them, and treatment options.
Common Types of Foot and Ankle Sports Injuries
Sports injuries that involve the feet and ankles can occur for a variety of reasons, including overuse; lack of proper shoe and arch support; repetitive movements; improper training—either training too long or too often; jumping and running on hard surfaces; and changing the intensity of your workout or activity too fast.
Sports injuries usually fall into two categories:
- Acute, when the injury happens quickly and suddenly
- Chronic, when the injury develops over time due to overuse
Sprains and Strains
A sprained ankle occurs when you turn or twist your ankle in an unnatural way. This can stretch or tear the ligaments that help keep your ankle bones together. Ankle sprains are a common sports-related injury, often occurring during physical activities such as running, jumping, or participating in contact sports. The symptoms of an ankle sprain usually include:
- A popping sound at the moment of injury
- Pain, especially when bearing weight on the injured foot
- Ankle instability
- Restricted range of motion
- Difficulty walking
Foot or Ankle Fractures
Fractures occur when one or more bones are broken due to extreme force or pressure. Common causes of sports-related fractures include falls while playing sports such as basketball or soccer, as well as direct trauma caused by contact with another person or object during the game.
Symptoms of a foot or ankle fracture may include:
- Pain that increases when you’re active and decreases when you’re at rest
- Tenderness around the injured area
- Difficulty bearing weight on the foot
Plantar fasciitis is an inflammation of the thick band of tissue, the plantar fascia, that connects your heel bone to your toes on the bottom of your feet. It’s caused by overstretching this band which results in heel pain that’s worse in the mornings when taking your first steps out of bed or after sitting for long periods.
Symptoms of plantar fasciitis may include:
- Dull or sharp pain in your heel, especially in the morning
- Swelling around the heel
- Difficulty walking barefoot on hard surfaces such as tile floors
Achilles tendinitis is an inflammation of the Achilles tendon at the back of your ankle due to overuse during activities such as running or jumping. Symptoms of Achilles tendinitis may include:
- Tenderness in your lower calf muscle near your heel
- Swelling near your heel
- Stiffness in your lower calf muscle
- Difficulty flexing your foot upward toward your shinbone
Turf toe is an injury of the big toe’s main joint, similar to a sprain. If your big toe bends in a forceful or unnatural way, the ligaments, soft tissue, and/or tendons of the joint can stretch or tear. Anyone can suffer turf toe, but because it’s usually caused by repetitive stress on the big toe joint, this condition is most common in athletes, dancers, and gymnasts who need to flex their toes and make quick movements to change direction on hard surfaces. Symptoms of turf toe can include:
- A sudden popping sound
- Visible swelling or bruising around the base of the big toe
- Reduced range of motion of the toe
- Tenderness to the touch
- Sharp pains when bending the toe or bearing weight
If you have a sports-related foot or ankle injury, there are many treatment options available. Certain types of injuries, such as broken bones or fractures, require immediate medical care at an urgent care or emergency room, while others may be assessed at a podiatrist’s office. Your podiatrist will evaluate your injury to determine the best treatment for your personal needs. Imaging tests such as an X-ray, MRI, or a CT scan may be done to confirm a diagnosis. Once a diagnosis is made, treatment options will be discussed.
Some patients are successful with conservative treatments at home that focus on reducing swelling and controlling pain. Treatment depends on the type of injury you are experiencing.
Common Sports Injury Treatments
- Custom orthotics or braces
- Physical therapy
- MLS laser therapy
- Wear the correct type of shoes. Be sure to wear the right shoes for your activity. Investing in a good pair of shoes specifically designed for running or playing basketball will give your feet extra support and cushioning. It is also important to ensure the shoes fit properly. If your shoes are too tight or too loose, they could be uncomfortable or even dangerous.
- Stretch before you play. Another way to prevent sports-related foot and ankle injuries is to stretch before every game or practice. Stretches such as calf raises, toe touches, ankle circles, and heel stretches will help loosen up your muscles, increase flexibility, and reduce tension in your lower limbs.
- Take breaks during practice. It is also important to take breaks during practice or games. Even if there is no break scheduled in the program, it's always a good idea to take one anyway, so you give your body time to rest up before returning to the field or court again.
- Never play when injured. If you notice any pain or discomfort and it is getting worse, it might be time to call it quits for the day. You should never play on an injured foot or ankle, or you could risk further damage.
Contact Our Austin Sports Injury Podiatrists Today
If you are experiencing foot or ankle pain due to a sports injury, contact our experienced podiatrists at Austin Foot and Ankle Specialists for an evaluation today. We can provide various advanced treatment options based on your individual needs, so you can get back to the sport you love as soon as possible. To schedule an appointment, contact us online, or call our office at 512-328-8900.