man sitting on ground holding foot

Common Foot and Ankle Injuries in Athletes

By: Meg Irish

Whether you’re a seasoned athlete or a weekend warrior, there’s no doubt you are more susceptible to injury, particularly foot and ankle injuries. This can be a hard pill to swallow for athletes limiting their ability to run, jump, and even walk.

When our feet aren’t able to effectively pick up the load, other structures and tissues are bound to compensate, which sets the stage for injury. Our feet serve as the foundation for the rest of our body. Ensuring they are functioning properly plays a vital role in performance and health. Often athletes unwittingly sacrifice their feet, setting themselves up for injury. Here are a few of the most common foot and ankle problems to watch for and preventative measures to keep you in the game.

Achilles Tendonitis

Achilles tendonitis is an overuse injury and is linked to athletes who perform sports with repetitive action or abrupt motion, such as tennis, soccer, or dance. This causes intense strain on the tendon and will result in inflammation of the Achilles tendon. Treatment for this condition varies depending on severity. For moderate injuries, Sara E. Zelinskas, DPM, ABFAS of TPMG Foot and Ankle in Virginia Beach recommends the following treatments: heel lift, night splint, and physical therapy to help reduce inflammation and strengthen the affected area.

Stress Fracture

Oftentimes stress fractures are the main culprit in injuries for avid runners if they track too many miles and increase the intensity of training too quickly over several weeks to even several months. A stress fracture can also occur when starting a new exercise regimen or getting back into an old routine after taking time off. Frequency and duration, as well as, poor footwear can contribute to stress fractures.

“The best treatment for a stress fracture is rest, if you continue to run through the pain it will only worsen the issue and prolong the injury,” said Dr. Zelinskas. “For athletes looking to maintain strength and performance as they recover I recommend low-impact activities including pilates, yoga, and aquatic therapy.”

Ankle Sprains

Ankle sprains are the most frequently occurring injury seen by foot and ankle specialists, which can happen simply by walking on an uneven surface or landing awkwardly on your foot while jumping or running. With this kind of injury, it is critical that you seek treatment from a foot and ankle specialist as the injury could actually be an ankle fracture. An ankle fracture means one or more of the bones that make up the ankle joint are broken. For moderate sprains, a basic ankle brace and rest is advised, for more severe injuries a walking boot is needed. Once the affected area calms down, your doctor will advise physical therapy to strengthen the affected area and prevent re-injury.

Prevention

You can reduce your risk for injury by moderately increasing your activity level. This allows your body to adapt and strengthen through a natural process known as remodeling. Additionally, wear proper shoes and stretch daily; this improves flexibility and increases the ability for the joint to move through its full range of motion. If you do experience an injury, especially an overuse injury, allow for adequate recovery time before resuming normal activity.

For many athletes fueled by passion and purpose, their resilience and desire to maximize performance and reach their full athletic potential is seemingly hard-wired into their DNA. And although being in great shape is applauded, too much of a good thing can lead to injury. According to the American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons (ACFAS), by letting your body adjust to increased activity, you can prevent common overuse injuries. Another good rule of thumb is to listen to your body if you have unusual discomfort after completed a sports-related activity, take a break and slow down.

While every athlete varies in terms of athletic performance, the 10 percent rule is a good place to start, which involves a gradual increase in activity by only 10 percent each week. Some individuals are prone to getting overuse injuries due to anatomical factors such as flat feet, custom orthotic shoe inserts prescribed by a foot and ankle surgeon is one preventative measure to avoid foot and ankle related injuries.


About Sara Zelinksas, DPM, ABFAS

Sara E. Zelinskas, DPMSara Zelinskas, DPM, ABFAS, is a board certified foot and ankle specialist at TPMG Foot and Ankle in Virginia Beach. In addition to her training in foot and ankle surgery, Dr. Zelinskas has specialized training in sports medicine and dermatopathology, a subspecialty disciple of dermatology focused specifically on skin disorders of the foot and ankle resulting from skin diseases, cancer, athletes foot, and eczema. Dr. Zelinskas focuses on the needs of each individual patient to help them achieve their individual training goals, whether as a weekend warrior or budding marathon runner. Her goal is to keep her patients active by providing guidance on appropriate training and injury prevention, and through surgical intervention, when necessary.


Foot and Ankle Care at TPMG

TPMG foot and ankle specialists practice at offices in Newport News, Williamsburg, and Virginia Beach. TPMG’s board certified foot and ankle surgeons are experienced in the surgical and non-surgical treatment of common and complex foot and ankle problems, from ankle sprains to total ankle replacements. Utilizing the latest techniques, TPMG foot and ankle specialists provide completed foot and ankle care to help patients return to function and the activities they enjoy.