Sports Injuries Overview
Competitive athletes and weekend warriors alike rely on the podiatric surgeons at MedStar Health to provide expert assessment of their foot and ankle issues. Our sports medicine specialists have seen all kinds of injuries on the court, in the field and at the gym, and they have the expertise to handle the most complex foot and ankle cases. Whether your injury is mild or severe, you benefit from having the latest technology and treatments available. We’ll create a treatment plan to get you back in the game as quickly and safely as possible.
Planning and Recovery
Achilles Tendon Injuries
Achilles tendon injuries can happen when you run, jump, pivot, or collide during high-impact activities. When the tendon is stretched too far, a partial or complete tear be painful and debilitating. If you experience a snapping or popping sensation in your heel, it’s important to get medical care right away.
Treatment: Wearing a cast, walking boot, or brace can help a mild Achilles tendon injury heal on its own, but without surgery, you may remain vulnerable to a subsequent, potentially more serious injury. Surgery may help reduce the likelihood of re-injury and also help improve muscle function and movement.
Ankle sprains are bound to happen when you’re playing sports, but the severity of an ankle sprain can vary widely. With a bad sprain, stretching, or tearing of the ankle ligaments can result in extensive swelling, pain, and difficulty walking. If you have severe pain and swelling, or you cannot put weight on your foot, you should see a doctor right away. For mild sprains, schedule an appointment if you have pain and swelling that doesn’t improve after a few days.
Treatment: Ice and over-the-counter medication can help alleviate some symptoms, but the ankle should be examined to determine the full extent of the damage and the appropriate treatment options to ensure a full recovery. Surgery may be required to repair the ligaments.
Chronic Ankle Instability
Frequent ankle sprains can have a cumulative effect that makes the ankle more susceptible to problems such as chronic swelling, pain, tenderness or additional sprains. If your ankles feel wobbly and give way more easily, you may have chronic ankle instability.
Treatment: Physical therapy, bracing, and medication may be needed to treat chronic instability. If ligaments have been seriously damaged, surgery may be needed. A physical therapy program can also help strengthen foot and ankle muscles, and help patients develop a stronger sense of balance.
Stress fractures are tiny cracks in a bone, commonly in the lower leg and foot. They are often caused by overuse or repetitive use, such as repeated jumps or running long distances. Stress fractures are a common injury for runners, basketball players, dancers, and gymnasts — and they can happen to anyone if you increase your activity level too quickly.
Treatment: Your doctor may direct you to stay off the affected limb for a number of weeks or several months. Treatment for stress fractures may include wearing a walking boot or brace, or using crutches to reduce the bone’s weight-bearing load. In rare cases, surgery may be necessary to help the healing process.
Turf toe is a sprain of the big toe caused by stretching or tearing of ligaments. It often happens when an athlete’s shoe gets caught while playing on artificial turf, causing a hyperextension of the big toe. However, this type of injury can happen on any surface.Treatment: Turf toe treatment usually involves rest, ice, compression, and elevation. However, it’s important to have the injury examined, because a doctor may order an X-ray to rule out a fracture or broken bone. Wearing a walking boot or stiff-soled shoes may also be helpful to protect the toe and promote healing.
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Frequently Asked Questions
For a mild sprain, following the RICE method can aid your recovery:
- Rest: Give the injured area a rest. You may continue some physical activity, but avoid activities that cause pain or swelling.
- Ice: Apply a cold pack as soon as possible after the injury occurs to help limit inflammation, bruising, and pain.
- Compression: Wrap the injured area with an elastic bandage until the swelling stops.
- Elevation: Prop the injured area so it’s elevated above your heart, especially at night. Gravity will help reduce swelling by draining excess fluid.
It’s best to have your injury checked out by a doctor. Without an X-ray, it may be impossible to know if you have a fracture or a sprain, and sometimes a bad sprain may require medical treatment to heal properly. Although many people may be tempted to “walk it off” or just rest for a few days, a foot or ankle injury can have serious, long-term implications if not properly diagnosed and treated.
Your doctor will assess if you would benefit from surgery depending on the type of injury, the severity of symptoms and your needs. Your doctor may recommend conservative treatments such as medications, orthotics, or special footwear before considering surgery as an option.
Your procedure may be covered by insurance if it is deemed medically necessary. Please contact your insurance company to determine your coverage.
Before surgery, you may be asked to get blood tests and take or adjust medications. If you smoke, quitting will help you heal faster and better avoid complications. You’ll be given special instructions to follow prior to your surgery.
Recovery time depends on the type of surgery and level of correction needed, and it may take a few weeks or a number of months. Your surgeon will discuss a realistic time frame for your recovery.
Your doctor may recommend a physical therapy program to help you get the best results from your surgery. Physical therapy can help you regain range of motion, strength, and flexibility after surgery.