Our feet contain a quarter of the total number of bones in our whole bodies – as well as tendons, ligaments, and muscles holding them all together. Feet play a vital role in activities like walking, running, and jumping, all while supporting our full body weight.
Unfortunately, this makes them vulnerable to injury.
Sports injuries are the most common cause of foot trauma and fracture. Certain medical conditions such as arthritis can also weaken bones, making them more likely to sustain an injury or fracture.
If you have suffered a sports-related injury to your foot or ankle, or if you have a concern about the condition of your feet – which is affecting your love of playing sports and having an active lifestyle – a podiatrist specializing in sports injuries could be the solution to getting you back to peak physical condition.
What Is a Podiatric Specialist?
Podiatric specialists are medical doctors who specialize in conditions and diseases of the foot and ankle. They are trained to provide comprehensive foot care, and they offer both preventive measures and treatment plans for specific problems and injuries. They are able to identify and diagnose foot conditions as well as general health conditions that may affect the foot and ankle.
Sports Medicine and Podiatry
Sports medicine focuses on preventing, diagnosing, and treating injuries relating to sports and/or exercise. A podiatrist specializing in sports medicine has immense knowledge of sports science, meaning they have specific knowledge of how muscles, bones, and soft tissues interact during different types of sports.
This is an advantage when treating patients with sports-related injuries, as treatment plans and preventive care can be tailored to suit the patient’s exact needs and requirements. The podiatrist can help the patient return to their desired sport as quickly as possible.
What Sports Injuries Do Podiatric Specialists Work With?
Podiatric specialists handle a number of different injuries and conditions, but the most common sports-related injuries include the following:
Any sport that involves jumping or running increases your risk of a , although even walking on slippery or uneven surfaces can cause a sprain. A sprained ankle occurs when the ankle rolls or twists awkwardly, which can stretch or tear the connective tissue (ligaments) that connect bones in joints. It causes pain, and the ankle can feel tender and become swollen.
Ankle sprains come into three categories, with first-degree sprains being the least severe and third-degree sprains the most severe. A third-degree sprain usually indicates that the ligament is completely torn, which significantly compromises your ankle stability. Fractures may also occur with an ankle sprain.
If self-care with the RICE method (rest, ice, compression, elevation) doesn’t alleviate symptoms, a podiatric specialist may recommend treatment including immobilization, taping, a splint, or even a cast to hold the bones of the ankle in the proper position to aid healing. Ankle sprains can take a while to heal – up to 2 months in many cases. If a ligament is fully torn, surgery may even be required.
Once you suffer an ankle sprain, you are more likely to repeat the injury. This is because ankle sprains result in instability at the ankle, making you more susceptible to future injury as well as compromising your athletic performance.
Trauma and Fractures
A trauma or fracture to the foot or ankle usually causes immediate pain and swelling, and it creates difficulty walking or standing on the affected foot. You should seek urgent medical assistance if you suspect you have fractured a bone in your foot or ankle, no matter how mild your symptoms.
Fractures can be more than just a broken bone. If a fracture breaks the skin, there is a risk of developing a bone infection because the bone is exposed to air. Foot fractures can also lead to nerve or blood vessel complications.
Treatment will depend on the type and extent of the injury. For example, stress fractures (tiny cracks in the bone usually due to repetitive stress) may be able to heal on their own with rest.
However, when there is a significant break in the bones of the foot or ankle, immobilization or surgery is often needed to ensure proper healing. A splint, cast, or walking boot may be required to immobilize the area during the recovery period.
Plantar Fasciitis and Heel Spurs
The plantar fascia is the thick band of connective tissue that runs from the toes to the heel and supports the arch of the foot. It acts as a shock absorber when you walk. When it becomes damaged or strained, it causes plantar fasciitis.
This commonly causes severe heel pain. The pain is usually sharp and localized and is more pronounced with the first steps in the morning. If the plantar fascia is repeatedly strained, it can become inflamed and may develop little tears.
Plantar fasciitis can happen from standing for long periods on hard surfaces, inadequate arch support, an uneven gait, and obesity. Tight calf muscles are a common contributor to the problem because they make the ankle less flexible, which in turn tightens the plantar fascia when walking or running. Plantar fasciitis can recur in people who have had it before, and it can worsen over time.
Heel spurs are calcium growths that develop on the underside of the heel bone, and they often grow as a result of plantar fasciitis. Many people with heel spurs don’t experience any pain, but when pain does occur, it is typically due to a soft-tissue injury in the immediate area of the spur.
A podiatric specialist may recommend treatments including rest, anti-inflammatory medication, stretching exercises, wearing proper footwear with orthotics for arch support, wearing night splints that stretch your calf and foot arch while you sleep, and cold therapy. Healing can take months. In some cases, your podiatric specialist may recommend shockwave therapy or surgery.
Achilles tendonitis is also a common cause of heel pain. The Achilles tendon, which connects your calf muscle to the heel bone, is the largest tendon in the body and can become inflamed after years of repetitive strain. Like plantar fasciitis, Achilles tendonitis is common among runners.
While pain can occur within the tendon itself, many people feel pain in the back of the heel where the tendon attaches to the heel bone. Bone spurs may also develop with this condition when damaged tendon fibers harden (calcify) at the point of attachment to the bone.
Achilles tendonitis typically responds to nonsurgical treatments, including:
- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication
- Cortisone injections
- Physical therapy
- Shockwave therapy
Sports Medicine Podiatry in South Texas
At The Podiatry Group of South Texas, our podiatric specialists not only treat sports injuries, but we can also help improve athletic performance and fitness levels while helping to prevent future injuries. We can offer appropriate conditioning and stability exercises to help you avoid foot and ankle injuries during sports and physical activity.
Whether you’re a serious athlete or a casual sports participant, if you’ve suffered a foot or ankle injury, talk to our sports medicine podiatrists for the right kind of care. We work with our patients to help them excel in the activities they enjoy as safely as possible. We offer a wide range of treatment options, including shockwave therapy, so don’t let a sports injury stop you from doing the activities you love.
Our experts provide comprehensive care and can help you resume your favorite activities as quickly as possible. Call us today at (210) 227-8700 or request an appointment online now. We look forward to seeing you here.