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Foot Problems: Sports Related & Other Injuries

Many active people accept the myth, "no pain, no gain." But pain is rarely positive. It's usually a signal that something is wrong - that you may even have an activity related injury. Ignoring pain can lead to more problems.

Injuries from forward motion

Every time you take a step, your foot flattens slightly. But repeated flattening during sports like jogging, exercise walking, cross-country skiing and biking can make you more vulnerable to injury.

Repeated Flattening
As your foot bears weight, your arch flattens, stretching the plantar fascia. Repeated flattening can inflame your plantar fascia. Repeated flattening can inflame your plantar fascia or tendons, break down joints, or weaken muscles. Wearing shoes with weak arch support or a worn-out midsole can make matters worse. Other contributing factors include flat feet, which can overstretch your plantar fascia; abnormal leg length, which causes the foot of your longer leg to flatten too much; being overweight; and running on hard or uneven surfaces.

Injuries from Up and Down Motion

Your feet take quite a beating during the up and down motion of sports like aerobics. The ball of your foot is subject to repeated pounding, which, in turn stresses any weak parts of your foot. Basketball, gymnastics, volleyball and walking on stairs are other activities that can cause stress.

Repeated Pounding
With repeated up and down pounding, the pressure on your foot is concentrated on the ball of your foot, rather than spread over the entire foot. Your foot's tendons and muscles aren't able to absorb the extra stress coming up through your bones, so fractures or tendon injuries in your foot, ankle and calf can occur more easily. Being overweight increases the pressure, as does jumping on hard surfaces, over training or wearing stiff shoes or ones lacking support in the front.

Injuries from Sideways Motion

During sports like tennis, basketball, volleyball or racquetball, your feet move side to side, changing direction countless time, often very quickly. With these kinds of moves, your joints can be twisted or jammed more easily, throwing your foot off balance.

Repeated Twisting
When you make sudden sideways movements, your "tripod" of bones, your heal and first and fifth metatarsals, is thrown off balance. Because your joints are forced beyond their normal range of motion, ligaments and joints can be injured. Playing on an uneven surface is a set-up for this type of injury, as is wearing shoes with loose ankle support, worn our or the wrong size Other contributing factors include weak ankles, high arches, or fatigue.

Treatment

Its not enough just to treat your symptoms and protect your injury. Treatment also includes correcting whatever caused your injury and strengthening your feet and legs for return to normal activity. That may be as simple as prescribing custom-made orthotics. Or it may include other types of podiatric treatment such as physical therapy or surgery. Your podiatrist will give you the specifics of your treatment plan.