Recognizing and Relieving 3 Common Sports Injuries

Being a sports medicine specialist can be compared to coaching a team. The coach encourages his players to do their best and push themselves to the limit. In doing so, he also knows, however, that accidents do happen and people do get hurt. Some of the most common injuries athletes sustain involve the heel, ankle and shin. I will comment on the three most common injuries treated at my sports medicine clinic here in Alameda.

Plantar Fasciitis is an injury that occurs to the ligament on the bottom of the foot. This ligament stretches between the ball of the foot and heel. Runners and other athletes are vulnerable to this injury, regardless of whether they have a high or low arch. The injury takes place gradually as they increase their mileage or workout intensity. While many refer to this problem as heel spur syndrome, which is a close cousin, it is not actually a heel spur. The problem occurs where the ligament is attached at the heel. The sensation that is felt has been described as a “deep bruise” which is worse in the morning, just as one gets out of bed and after sitting for a period of time. The sensation tends to go away after a run or workout, but returns afterwards. Treatment is usually aimed at increasing flexibility and controlling any abnormal motion in the leg and foot. First make sure that you have the right shoes. Go into a specialty store and get fitted properly. If you are a frequent runner and your shoes are more than 6 months old, they need to be replaced. Make sure that the store considers foot type, weight, type and frequency of your workouts and the type of surface. The wrong shoe can definitely cause injury. If the problem starts to become chronic, then orthotics an help. They’re able to take into account any imbalances. People with minor problems can pick up arch supports, begin wall stretches (calf stretches) and ice the bottom of the heel. Athletes with reoccurring symptoms should seek a proper medical evaluation.

Ankle sprains are very common ankle injuries, usually the result of the ankle turning in. The sprain occurs when the ligaments supporting the outside of the ankle tear or rupture allowing the ankle to give way. Athletes who participate in lateral motion and jumping type sports, for example, soccer and basketball, are prone to these type of injuries. Runners who workout on trails or uneven terrain are also at risk. Inversion ankle sprains, which occur in up to 80% of all ankle sprains are immediately and severely painful. The athlete usually senses a sharp pain on the outside and just in front of the ankle and instinctively reaches down to cradle the injured area. Localized swelling is almost universal. The more severe sprains will show signs of bruising. Treatment should consist of immediate cessation of the activity, immobilization of the ankle, application of ice, along with elevation and a compressive bandage. Staying off the foot is also important. Minor sprains can be treated in this fashion. Should severe swelling, bruising or pain persist past 48 hours, a thorough medical evaluation. There may be a more serious injury or ankle break.

Stress fractures are common among long distance runners and high impact athletes. These individuals wear down the bones with repetitive trauma and training. Fatigue of the supporting muscles are also involved. This problem usually occurs after a steep increase in workout intensity over a short period of time. A stress fracture commonly involves one of the metatarsals (the instep bones), the navicular (the arch bone) and heel bone. The tibia (shin bone) can also suffer from a stress fracture. Pain is present
with or without activity – sharp and persistent throbbing, localized swelling, tenderness to touch and occasional bruising. For metatarsal stress fractures, padding, orthotics and rest for a minimum of two to three weeks will usually do the trick. The more serious fractures, as in the navicular stress fracture. require casting and should not support any weight for at least six weeks. Tibial stress fractures take a similar length of time to heal but do not usually require casting, an air brace is used instead.
It’s wise to keep an eye on your injuries. Use these guidelines to recognize and treat these common sports injuries. Remember when in doubt, seek qualified medical advice.  ~ Dr. Jeffrey J Niccoli   Board-Certified, Alameda Family Podiatry Group. Serving Bay Area patients from San Francisco, Oakland, Fremont, and Alameda

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