How to Prevent Ankle Injuries

How to Prevent Ankle Injuries

Ankle injuries can keep you from enjoying the activities you love. If you participate in any of these sports or athletic activities that put players at a higher risk of damaging the joint, here are the steps you can take to avoid getting hurt.

For many athletes, ankle injuries are a common cause for concern. While most sprains can heal in less than two months through rest, icing, and bracing, that still means time off from playing sports and enjoying other aspects of an active lifestyle.

In addition to the pain and discomfort they cause, sprains can put you at risk for developing more serious conditions. Even after they heal, they can leave the ankle weaker and more prone to dislocations, fractures, or osteochondral defects formed by cracks in the cartilage.

Whether you’ve had sprains before or simply want to avoid this painful condition, careful prevention is key to maintaining your health and continuing to enjoy your favorite sports. Here’s what it takes to avoid ankle injuries while playing soccer, running, and more.

SOCCER

In sports and in life, it’s a good idea to look before you leap. Aside from being on the receiving end of an unexpected slide tackle, the most common way to sprain your ankle is jumping — perhaps for a contested header — and landing badly. If you jump in a crowded area, spare some attention to where you touch down. While in competitive leagues it’s expected that you go for every ball you can, weekend warriors might exercise some caution and avoid risky jumps.

Soccer is a sport of quick acceleration, and the rapid directional changes it requires can also cause ankle injuries. Preemptive balance training can help you avoid sustaining any damage. This training consists of exercises like standing on one foot with your other ankle behind your back, catching and throwing a ball while on one foot, and one-legged squats.

BASKETBALL

As much as fans and announcers talk about “ankle-breaking” ball handling, the main cause of ankle injuries in basketball is actually rebounds. Be careful of risky leaps, whether it’s a heavily covered jump shot or a battle at the rim. Similar to soccer, landing on an uneven surface after a jump causes the most problems. So if the area is too congested, don’t be afraid to fall.

In addition, the stiff floor and rapid pivots of basketball are a recipe for ankle strain. Basketball shoes are designed with this in mind, so someone playing on a competitive team can take comfort in that layer of ankle protection. However, if you’re playing a pickup game in a regular pair of sneakers, watch out for quick stops and turns.

FOOTBALL

In any sport, it’s important to know your risks — and in football, those can vary by position. The causes of injury for a lineman are going to be different from those for a receiver or defensive back. For open-field positions that make rapid cuts and go up for the ball, the primary risk is landing unevenly. For those closer to the line of scrimmage, the bigger worry is getting forced into an unnatural position by the weight of a pileup.

Football is a contact sport, so some risks must be accepted. Still, a consistent stretching and strengthening regimen can go a long way. Jumping and skipping exercises can both strengthen the ankle and prepare it to absorb the impact of hitting the ground with force. Band exercises are useful for stretching your ankle beyond the normal pressures of practice, and could make all the difference if your foot ends up lodged at an awkward angle.

DANCE

Dancing is rigorous exercise, and ballet in particular puts the ankles under intense strain. As you learn new routines, it’s vital to gradually strengthen and work up to moves that force your feet into more difficult contortions. It is also important to strike a balance between mastering a move and overworking the muscles of the foot.

In what is already a standard practice, wrapping satin shoe ribbons around the ankle while dancing en pointe will help keep the foot stable in this elongated, high-pressure position. Although less research has been done on other forms of dance, proper warm-up, strengthening, and stretching have all proven helpful for injury prevention among ballet dancers.

RUNNING

Beyond buying sturdy shoes, choosing the right surface is key to safe running. By sticking to flat surfaces, you can decrease the risk of rolling your ankle. If you prefer running trails, then make sure not to lose sight of the changes in terrain. While some ankle injuries come from missteps and twists, others can stem from repetitive pounding. When you start to feel consistent pain, it’s time to take a break. Stretching before and after running sessions is also useful.

If you’re suffering from an ankle injury, consult an orthopedic specialist to learn about your treatment options. At Comprehensive Orthopaedics, our team of ankle specialists —Dr. Engel,  Dr. Nute and Dr. Lasee — have helped countless patients get back on their feet and return to the activities they enjoy. Contact us today to take your first step on the road to recovery.

Why Does My Foot Hurt?

Why Does My Foot Hurt?

Plantar fasciitis, bunions, or achilles tendonitis got you down? If you’re experiencing pain in your feet, we can help you pinpoint the source of your discomfort and recommend the best course of treatment for your condition.

While joint pain of any kind can put a serious damper on your ability to participate in sports or exercise regularly, pain in the feet can be especially debilitating. If you’re having difficulty simply staying on your feet throughout the day, a number of conditions could be to blame.

From Morton’s neuroma in the ball of your foot to Achilles tendonitis in the ankle, the first step to seeking relief from your pain is identifying its source. We’ve identified the most common conditions that affect the feet, and what you can do to address your symptoms.

1. BACK OF THE FOOT

If you’re experiencing burning, swelling, or stiffness in the back of your foot, you could be suffering from Achilles tendonitis. Most common in athletes whose sports are centered around running, jumping, or lunging, Achilles tendonitis occurs when the Achilles tendon (which controls flexing of the foot or ankle) becomes inflamed due to injury or overuse. The pain may worsen with intense exercise, particularly if you wear tight shoes when working out.

Most cases of Achilles tendonitis can be effectively treated by regularly resting and icing the tendon and wearing soft, loose shoes with special orthotic inserts. If the pain persists, taking anti-inflammatory medication or cortisone shots can help. If necessary, you can also opt for a physical therapy program designed to restore the tendon’s range of motion and redevelop the surrounding muscles.

2. BOTTOM OF THE FOOT

Pain in the bottom of the foot could result from several sources — but if it’s concentrated in the heel, the arch, or both, it’s most likely the product of plantar fasciitis, which is an inflammation of the tissue that runs from the heel to the base of the toes. Pain in this area of the foot may also be caused by a heel spur, which is an abnormal bone growth that usually forms in response to poorly fitting shoes, improper posture, or frequent running. Some patients suffer from heel spurs and plantar fasciitis at the same time.

In the case of heel spurs, relief can generally be found through the use of orthotic inserts. Meanwhile, the treatments we recommend for plantar fasciitis are similar to treatments for Achilles tendonitis: rest, icing, orthotic shoe inserts, and physical therapy. Anti-inflammatories and corticosteroid shots can provide additional relief. If your symptoms don’t improve in a year, you’ll likely need to undergo a short procedure to remove the damaged tissue.

3. SIDE OF THE FOOT

Pain or discomfort on the side of the foot is a common sign of a bunion: a bony protrusion on the side of the big toe that forces it to slant against the remaining toes. In addition to pain and swelling, bunions can alter the shape of your foot, making it more difficult to wear certain shoes.

Bunions are permanent, so if they’re causing you particular distress, you should discuss bunion removal surgery with a qualified orthopedic specialist. Otherwise, wearing wider, more comfortable shoes or custom-made inserts can help.

4. BALL OF THE FOOT

High heels and ill-fitting shoes are the most common source of pain in the ball of the foot, which can be a sign of metatarsalgia or Morton’s Neuroma. Metatarsalgia is a more general inflammation, while Morton’s neuroma is a compression or thickening of a nerve in the ball of the foot. For athletes, this pain can be a consequence of repeated stress or overuse.

Metatarsalgia usually responds well to rest and physical therapy, but more advanced cases of Morton’s neuroma may require further treatment. If you still feel pain after trying different shoes and custom shoe inserts, anti-inflammatories, and corticosteroid injections, your podiatrist may suggest surgery to remove the damaged portions of the nerve.