Every builder knows that the secret to a strong, long-lasting building is a solid foundation. In much the same way, the key to a successful athlete is a strong foundation in the form of healthy feet. Podiatric sports medicine is the medical specialty that focuses on not only ways to maintain healthy feet but to fix them when they have problems.
While much is heard in the news about devastating knee injuries suffered by athletes, injuries to the feet can be just as debilitating. Because the foot is actually a very complex system of muscles, bones, tendons, and ligaments forming multiple joints there are several different injuries that commonly affect the feet of athletes:
- Turf Toe - A very common foot injury, particularly among football players, is turf toe. So named because it is often caused by the hard surface of artificial turf, this injury is actually a sprain of the ligament in the joint of the big toe caused by hyperextension of the joint. While one injured toe doesn't seem like a bad injury there are many world class athletes that are sidelined for several weeks due to this injury.
- Achilles Tendon - The Achilles tendon attaches the calf muscle to the heel bone and allows a person to move their foot up and down or stand on their toes. Injury to the Achilles tendon can range from a mild strain which can cause some discomfort to a complete rupture or tear which immediately incapacitates the person as the muscle will no longer be attached to the bone.
- Ankle - Because the ankle joint is designed to allow the foot to move in a large number of directions it includes several intertwined parts that can be injured. Damage to this joint ranging from sprained ligaments to broken bones can lead to the athlete not being able to support weight on the joint and therefore unable to perform well.
- Growth Plate - The growth plate is a portion of a bone that is growing tissue which produces new bone and allows bones to grow as children get older. As the child reaches maturity the plate itself converts to bone thereby halting the growth of the bone. This plate made of cartilage can actually be broken similar to a broken bone. The danger of a growth plate injury is the threat of the plate not be able to produce new bone, thereby stopping the growth of the bone prematurely.
All of these injuries if severe can be treated by a podiatrist who is trained in all aspects of the foot. Podiatric sports medicine is critical to keeping a healthy foundation under an athlete.