Along with getting plenty of sleep and eating well, staying physically active is one of the best things you can do for your health and wellbeing. Researchers continually find new physical, emotional, and even mental benefits from leading an active life. It really seems as though the only downside to regular exercise is the fact there is always a certain degree of injury risk.
The fact of the matter, though, is that the risk is worth it for the benefits you are guaranteed to receive from working out or playing your favorite sports. Plus, most foot and ankle sports injuries are effectively treated without needing surgery. Even better, many can be avoided with some simple prevention measures.
In the event you do need treatment for a foot or ankle sports injury, Anderson Foot & Ankle Clinic is ready to provide the care you need!
Sprains, Strains, and Fractures
The most common sports injuries are sprains, strains, and fractures. Fractures (broken bones) tend to be fairly straightforward and self-explanatory, but some people get confused by sprains and strains. This makes sense because they sound similar and have actual similarity in the fact they are soft tissue injuries. The key distinction is that a sprain describes an injury wherein a ligament has been stretched beyond its intended range of motion. Strains, on the other hand, describes excessive stretching of a muscle or tendon.
Specific injuries that tend to be more common include Achilles tendinitis, ankle sprains, turf toe, plantar fasciitis, and other sources of heel pain. This is not a comprehensive list, so keep in mind that you should come in and see us for proper diagnosis and treatment whenever you experience pain or dysfunction in a foot or ankle as a result of physical activity.
With regards to fractures, there are several potential variations. These include:
- stable fractures – broken ends line up, which is ideal positioning for optimal healing
- comminuted fractures – bone shattered into three or more pieces
- open, compound fractures – broken bone pierces through the skin and can be seen
Less commonly considered, though, when people think about broken bones are stress fractures.
Stress fractures are hairline cracks that develop in the surface of bones in response to cumulative forces over time. So instead of happening in a single incident, these fractures are usually the result of overuse. We aren’t normally aware of this, but bone tissue goes through a constant cycle of replacing fatigued cells. If you don’t give your body the opportunity to do this before engaging in high-impact activity again, you may end up with a stress fracture in your lower limbs.
When considering the potential for all the different foot and ankle sports injuries that can be sustained, it’s important to know how to apply first aid to tend to an injury. The best starting point for basically any (nonemergency) sports injury is RICE therapy:
Rest – Taking time away from physical activity not only allows the body to heal itself, it is also a vital step for protecting the injured area and preventing greater damage from occurring. An example of this can be seen in the case of an ankle sprain (one of the most prevalent sporting injuries). Returning too quickly to action can actually lead to instability in the vital joint.
Icing – This particular practice has benefits that are twofold: pain relief and reduced inflammation. When we include an icing regimen as part of your injury treatment plan, be sure to wrap the ice or ice pack with a thin towel to reduce the risk of damaging the skin!
Compression – Much like with icing, compression is a great practice for reducing the amount of inflammation that happens in the injured area. Be careful not to wrap a bandage too tightly and cut off circulation, though.
Medication – Pain relievers can be beneficial in both managing painful symptoms and keeping inflammation to a minimum.
Whereas this is a good starting point, do not underestimate the value of medication, particularly anti-inflammatories like ibuprofen and naproxen sodium. These kinds of medication can certainly help to relieve pain, but—perhaps even more importantly—they reduce inflammation in the affected area. Reducing swelling is an essential part of ensuring faster recovery from the injury.
We are happy to help you overcome any foot or ankle injury you sustain. Even better, though, is knowing you were able to prevent a problem from developing in the first place. Some of the best tips for preventing lower limb sports injuries include:
- Wear proper shoes. Choosing footwear that is appropriate for your activity is important, but so too is ensuring a proper fit. Athletic footwear should not be too tight nor loose, and feature solid arch support and ample cushioning for the heel.
- Avoid overuse. This is important when starting a workout program, but certainly applies any time you lead an active life. If you are just beginning an exercise or running program, be sure to start at low levels of duration and intensity and gradually build them up over time.
- Prepare your body for activity. Before running, working out, or playing sports, take five to ten minutes to warm up, and then follow your warmup with some dynamic stretches.
- Cross-train. This certainly ties in with avoiding overuse, but incorporate low-impact activities into your workout program. Cycling, swimming, and yoga are all great options for lowering your risk from overuse injuries.
Professional Foot and Ankle Sports Injury Treatment
First aid is a good starting point for nonemergency injuries and preventive care can reduce your injury risk, but you may need to seek professional care for effective healing. When this is the case, come see us here at Anderson Foot & Ankle Clinic. Give our Salt Lake City podiatrist office a call at (801) 269-9939 and our staff will be glad to answer any questions or schedule you for an appointment.