Foot & Ankle sports injuries are common amongst athletes and sportspeople like runners, footballers, soccer players, lacrosse players, and basketball players. Some of these foot and ankle injuries could be so severe they may spell the end of a sporting career. History has witnessed the premature departure of several amazing sporting talents who sustained injuries during their sport and were never able to resume their career again.
Our ankle and foot are closely aligned with each other and they work in synergy to provide mobility and stability to be able to move and function at all levels. All athletes are at some risk of ankle and foot injury when they are out there in the field. In this article, we will discuss some of the common foot and ankle injuries that could spell an end to a sporting career. At the end, we will also discuss how you can cope up with these ‘potentially’ career-ending foot and ankle injuries. So, let’s get to our main topic.
The following are some of the common ankle and foot injuries that have the potential to affect the ability of a sportsperson to return to sport.
The Achilles tendon is the largest tendon in the human body that connects two calf muscles with the bone in the heel. This tendon goes downside in the length from the back of the ankle. If it is overused then it is more likely to be subject to inflammation. Inflammation of the tendon is referred to as Achilles tendonitis and to make it right, a combination of physical therapy and orthotic support is critical.
People who experience Achilles tendonitis typically do not pay much attention to it and think it is just minor inflammation that will go away with time. Typically, this inflammation may progress over time and lead to chronic inflammation, bone spur formation or even a tendon rupture. In some literature, this is also referred to as a repetitive strain injury. Such injuries can also occur due to sudden trauma.
If you have a popping feeling or noise when you jump or you experience sudden pain in your heel, it is possible you may have ruptured your Achilles tendon.This warrants an immediate consultation with a foot and ankle specialist to determine the severity of your problem. He or she will examine your foot and ankle thoroughly and he will counsel you on the nature of the condition and its prognosis. Chronic, neglected Achilles tendon ruptures typically heal with the tendon lengthened which results in poor stability, reduced walking speed and difficulty doing stairs.
The bones of our body are joined with other bones with the help of connective tissues known as ligaments. They are responsible for providing stability and strength to our joints. Ligaments are also present in our ankles that keep the joints from moving too far from side to side. If one or more ligaments have been stretched or torn then it means that a sprain has occurred.
High ankle sprains are one of the most common foot and ankle injuries. Also known as ‘syndesmotic ligament injuries’, high ankle sprains result in compromised movements of the ankle as the ligaments are no more able to hold the two leg bones, the tibia and fibula together in alignment.
Most sprains are minor and heal easily with some rest and ice but it doesn’t mean that you can ignore them indefinitely. If the pain and swelling persists even after taking all measures then it is recommended to see a doctor. Ankle sprains, if left untreated, can weaken your ankle over time. If you suffer from repeated sprains then they can lead to end-stage ankle damage like arthritis. Early onset ankle arthritis can lead to ankle deformity with permanent pain and the potential to prematurely end a sporting career.
If excessive and repetitive stress is applied to your feet then it could cause microscopic damage to your bones. Usually, fractures occur due to a traumatic event but stress fractures occur due to the repetitive impact piled up over time. When you exercise or practice too often then your bones and their supporting muscles do not get enough time to heal. Doing this frequently may cause small cracks in your bones.
Another reason for stress fractures could be a sudden change in your level of physical activity such as a sudden increase in your workout and training sessions.
Mostly stress features are seen in the following
Altough most stress fractures recover over time, many athletes have had to take ‘significant time-off’ due to stress fractures. Some of them have been unable to recover and make a comeback as their performance wasn’t as effective as it was before the stress fracture.
Stress fractures are usually small and they develop in your feet over time, but ankle fractures are severe and they often occur as a result of a traumatic injury or impact. Mostly, patients confuse the ankle fractures with ankle sprains but these are two completely different things.
When an ankle fracture occurs, it can result in severe pain, inflammation, bruising, deformity, blistering, or other symptoms. It is a serious condition in which will require care from an orthopedic ankle specialist. If there is a bone coming out from your skin, then it is very important to get medical help immediately.
Ankle fractures affect the alignment of the ankle and therefore the ability of the ankle to function normally. Restoration of this alignment either with a brace/cast or surgery is critical to ensure the ankle function is restored.
Career ending injuries can be a source of stress for many athletes and can impact their performance. If you are an athlete, an injury can be life-changing for you. Sometimes it can result in permanent damage which compromises the ability to return to sport and function on a daily basis. If you love sports and it is your passion then an injury will affect you both professionally, mentally and emotionally.
For professional athletes, the impact of such sports injuries is much deeper than for a recreational athlete. Not only they have to deal with the pain but their suffering also involves the end of a dream or loss of their identity. Overcoming such injuries is not an easy task but in many cases it is down to a firm and determined mindset, a committed and supportive multidisciplinary team of careers and a good treatment regime.