Sports podiatry focuses on the diagnosis, treatment, management and prevention of injuries to the feet and lower limbs, sustained during sports and other physical activities.
When you consider that a quarter of the bones in our entire body are located in our feet you can easily understand why they might be more susceptible to injury.
Add to this the fact that sport and other high impact activities can subject our feet to loads and forces of up to 10 to 15 times our body weight, it’s easy to see how serious damage can occur – from a sprained ankle, to black bruised toenails, hamstring strains, and painful foot fractures.
As a keen enthusiast of activities such as surfing, hiking, skiing, bike riding, touch football and indoor soccer myself, I have developed a particular interest in the field of sport podiatry.
Common Sports Injuries
At our clinic in the bayside suburbs of Brisbane, we see a lot of clients suffering from sports injuries. Here are five of the most common:
How can something as small as your toes, cause so much pain?!
The sesamoids are two small bones beneath the joint of your big toe, within the tendons; sesamoiditis is the name given when there is an inflammation in these bones.
High intensity physical activities like jumping, lunges, or activities with a heavy push off or loading – like what you’d do at boot camp style training – can all lead to a flare up of sesamoiditis.
If you are experiencing a painful big toe following this sort of strenuous activity, it is important to visit a podiatry clinic for diagnosis and treatment. Serious long term damage can result if the bones have fractured, or blood flow has been disrupted.
2. Stress Fractures
Sports and exercise can also cause stress fractures – tiny hair like fractures in the bones – usually in the five long metatarsal bones of the foot. While you can’t see if the bone is fractured, you may notice symptoms like swelling on the top of your foot, and pain when walking.
Stress fractures are associated with repetitive activity, or a sudden increase in training level and intensity. Other factors may include ageing footwear, an unforgiving training surface (eg concrete, tar, grass, artificial turf). People suffering from reduced bone density – osteoporosis – are at a much greater risk of foot fractures.
The good news is, stress fractures usually heal on their own, following periods of rest and reduced activity. However it is still wise to consult with a podiatrist with a special interest in and understanding of sports podiatry.
3. Turf Toe
This painful injury occurs when the forefoot catches on the ground (usually grass or artificial turf) while you are in a forward motion, causing the toe to bend upwards, outside of the normal range of movement. Ouch!
Your podiatrist may recommend wearing footwear with a stiffened toe box, toe strapping, and/or reduced activity, for a period of time.
4. Plantar Fasciitis
Foot pain which improves over the course of the day, is generally caused by plantar fasciitis. Patients often report that the first couple of steps out of bed in the morning are the most painful.
Although plantar fasciitis is common in runners, dancers and people who jump, it also affects people with reduced flexibility (eg those born with a reduced calf length).
While high heels are not the usual footwear associated with the field of sports podiatry, we sometimes see this condition in women with a high heel habit. It often develops in flight attendants for example, after years of wearing heels at work. This is because over time the calf muscles shorten to adapt to the heel height – and the calf becomes so tight that it is no longer possible to wear flat or low heels. This places additional strain on the arch of the foot, resulting in plantar fasciitis.
Your local podiatrist can prescribe treatment such as ice, heat packs, exercises, and specific footwear.
5. Black Bruised Big Toenail
If you have been shocked to find a black bruised big toenail when taking off your shoes after a day of hiking or a game of netball, this is a sign that either:
- The shoe doesn’t fit properly, and your toes are repeatedly knocking on the toe box.
- Or, your feet are moving forward in the shoe. Generally patients with this problem have a narrow foot, and a lacing technique called a heel lock helps to pull the foot back into the rear two thirds of the shoe.
Often seen in runners, hikers, snow skiers and tennis players, a black bruised toenail is caused by a bleed under the nail (called a hematoma). It can be quite painful, so it’s a good idea to visit a podiatry clinic, where they can relieve the pressure under the nail.
Eventually the damaged nail will come away, but it may take as long as 6 to 12 months to fully recover.
Sports Podiatry Brisbane
If you live in the Redlands or in the south-east of Brisbane, make an appointment at our Birkdale clinic on 3207 4736 for any concerns relating to sports podiatry.
Using digital gait analysis we can pick up any potential problems with your biomechanics, advise on the most supportive footwear, as well as recommend strengthening exercises and other preventative strategies.
And if you do have the misfortune to sustain a sporting injury – whether you are a professional athlete, enthusiastic amateur or just enjoy kicking a footy around the backyard – we can assist you with techniques like Foot Mobilisation Therapy to get you back to what you love to do!