Podiatric treatment is recommended for all athletes for the prevention and treatment of sports-related injuries. Treatment for sports lower limb and foot injuries includes screening and assessment of posture and movement, and may include biomechanical analysis. Painful corns, bunions, shin splints or other injuries can all be caused by biomechanical variants that can be corrected by the evaluation of sports shoes and the possible fitting of orthotics. A podiatrist can evaluate an athlete’s biomechanics to determine the degree of pronation, and provide treatment to help restore a neutral foot posture in the athlete’s stride. Overuse injuries involving the skin and nails also benefit from podiatric treatments, and in some cases minor surgical procedures for problems such as ingrown nails. Some injuries benefit from sports massage therapy and corrective exercise regimes. Below is a list of the top podiatric sports injuries:
1. Plantar fasciitis Cause: inflammation of the arch fascia due to over-stretching. Treatment: management of the inflammation, stretching and orthoses to support the foot. Prevention: gait and biomechanic analysis from a podiatrist, who can recommend appropriate footwear, stretching or orthoses.
2. Ankle sprain Cause: sudden movements when dodging, twisting or spinning that cause the ligaments supporting the ankle joint to stretch and overextend, sometimes to the point of tearing. Treatment: immediate return to play may be possible dependent on the severity of the strain, immediate intervention may include local anti-inflammatory medication to reduce swelling and strapping of the ankle joint for stability. Following that, rest, ice, compression, elevation and stabilisation is required. Prevention: strapping to help stabilise a pre-existing injured ankle, and complete rehabilitation of any existing ankle sprain as most of these injuries occur on already injured ankles.
3. Chondromalacia patella (runner’s knee) Cause: misalignment of the patella when running or jumping, causing the cartilage around the knee to wear down. This misalignment is often brought on by gait problems. Treatment: NSAIDs to reduce inflammation, rest, ice, compression, elevation and stabilisation. Surgery may be required. Prevention: gait analysis to ensure undue pressure isn’t placed on the patella through biomechanics of the feet; orthoses; leg strengthening exercises to support the patella.
4. Achilles tendonitis Cause: inflammation of the Achilles tendon due to overuse and/or excessive pronation of the foot, which forces the tendon out of alignment. Treatment: NSAIDs to reduce inflammation, rest, ice, strengthening exercises. If the Achilles actually tears as a result of trauma, surgery may be required. Prevention: Strengthening exercises can significantly reduce the risk of damage to the Achilles tendon.
5. Shin splints Cause: pain running down the length of the shin caused by running on hard surfaces, such as pavements, and overuse. Treatment: rest and ice will relieve immediate discomfort. Orthoses may be fitted to improve the foot posture. Prevention: Well-fitting footwear that has adequate cushioning and training schedules that change training surfaces on a regular basis.
This resource has been provided by an Australian Podiatry Association (APodA) member podiatrist as part of Foot Health Month 2014