Athletic Foot and Ankle Injuries
The most common foot and ankle injuries among athletes, especially young athletes, are sprains, stress fractures and calcaneal apophysitis, a growth plate condition better known as Sever’s disease. The demands of training and sudden movements that are part of being an athlete, and the fact that extreme training for many sports begins at a younger and younger age, makes these types of injuries an even bigger problem for young people. Understanding causes and symptoms can be helpful in avoiding the most serious situations.
Jumping, running, twisting and sudden changes in direction all contribute to a multitude of sprains to the foot and ankle. The stretching and tearing of ligaments and tendons can cause mild to severe pain.
For more detail about ankle sprains, click here.
Stress fractures are more common in the foot than in the ankle. The most susceptible bones are the metatarsal bones that connect the toes to the foot, and the calcaneus bone, which is the heel. These hairline fractures occur because of fatigue in the bone due to overuse. The patient will usually notice some swelling or bruising, and possibly some soreness at the sight of the stress fracture.
Runners are frequently victims of stress fractures, but any athlete can experience them, especially if training is excessive or equipment is subpar. Keeping bones strong with vitamins and calcium can be helpful, but careful training, good technique and properly fitted shoes are the best ways to avoid a stress fracture.
Sever’s disease (calcaneal apophysitis)
Among the youngest athletes (generally ages 7-15) the most common foot/ankle injury is Sever’s disease, an injury to the growth plate in the heel. Symptoms include pain at the back of the heel and tightness in the achilles tendon. In some cases, the pain occurs during training or activity, and in others the pain begins after training.
Sever’s disease is a result of a child’s growing tibia causing a tightening of the calf muscle. The calf muscle is connected to the heel by the achilles tendon. The pulling on the muscle and tendon causes inflammation and swelling in the growth plate at the back of the heel, which is aggravated by athletic activity.