As temperatures drop during the winter months, activities such as team sports (football, soccer, netball) and marathon training tend to heat up. Having cared for athletes and their foot injuries over many years, there are a few common injuries which we tend to see more of at The Podiatry Practice during this time.
• Shin splints. Also called Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome (MTSS), shin splints is a painful overuse injury often seen in those who play sports involving lots of running and jumping (such as dancers and runners). It is caused by traction of the muscles passing on the inside of the tibia (shin bone) which inflames the bones outer layer (periosteum). Having shin splints diagnosed and treated early is important to avoid further complications such as tibial stress fracture and compartment syndrome (painful swelling in the leg).
• Tendon injuries. Tendons around the ankle, such as the Achilles, can be prone to overuse and damage, especially when there has been a rapid increase in usage in a short space of time. Mechanical and functional issues with the way the foot or leg is working commonly contributes to these problems. If left untreated, tendon injuries have a tendency to become chronic and more difficult to rehabilitate.
• Heel pain. With sudden increase in activity, it is not unusual for pain to develop underneath or at the back of the heel. In adults this most commonly involves inflammation of the plantar fascia, a thick ligamentous structure spanning the sole of the foot. Whereas in kids, particularly between 9-12 years, injuries often develop at the growth plate of the heel bone (‘Sever’s disease’). Usually once we diagnose these problems, some simple treatment can facilitate a pain-free return to sports.
Our best tips to reduce the likelihood of these and other similar problems is to invest in some decent, supportive sports footwear, commence a general stretching and flexibility program (increasingly important as you get older), and don’t try and ‘run through’ the pain. Seek some expert podiatry advice before you do even more damage!