March 14th through April 3rd marks this year’s NCAA college basketball tournament – commonly called March Madness. It starts with 68 college teams. With an average of 15 players per team, over 2000 ankles will be working, stretching, running and jumping for the championship. Players have spent countless hours practicing to get to this point so they needto make sure they are in top physical shape, including their foot health.
There are two types of injuries in sports: acute injuries and chronic injuries. Acute injuries happen suddenly and usually result in a player lying on the court holding their ankle. Chronic injuries are the result of long-term overuse and can sneak up on players with mild to moderate symptoms until it’s too late and a full-blown injury has occurred. The good news is that chronic injuries can be avoided by knowing what to look for and when to seek treatment.
One of the most reliable ways of determining the seriousness of a foot issue is timing. There are four different times athletes may experience foot and ankle pain: pain during activity(could affect performance), pain after activity (does not affect performance), pain before, during, and after (will affect performance), and pain that prevents activity altogether.
Let’s start with the obvious: pain that prevents activity. If your feet hurt so much that you have to skip practice or miss the big game, then you should definitely go see your podiatrist. This type of pain indicates that you have a serious injury and need a professional treatment plan for recovery.
If you experience pain only after heavy activity, but this pain does not affect your athletic performance overall, try starting with RICE (rest, ice, compression, elevation). This simple treatment plan can help relieve symptoms and promote healing. Combine this with better stretching and warm-up techniques before practice to reduce post-activity pain. You should consider seeing a podiatrist if symptoms reoccur too often or athletic performance becomes reduced
If you experience pain only during activity, you need to recognize which pains are normal and which mean serious injury on the horizon. Minor discomforts in the foot or a mild “burning” sensation in the legs are considered normal pains. These symptoms should dissipate quickly after activity and should not be considered serious. Sharp or sudden pain is a key indicator that you should immediately stop what you are doing and rest. Continued use of the affected foot can exacerbate symptoms and lead to chronic injury. Most injuries of this kind are easily treated within a couple of weeks, but if you ignore this type of pain and the injury becomes chronic it could mean months of recovery time.
If you experience pain during and after activity, or even sometimes before a workout, this could indicate a serious injury and requires evaluation by a podiatrist. Pains of this type will affect athletic performance and can result in tendonitis, stress fractures, and muscle tears. Most of us casual gym-goers will recognize this type of pain immediately and seek treatment, but for athletes who are used to hard and frequent workouts, the slow road to a chronic injury may not be so obvious.
If in doubt, contact the FAAWC and book an appointment or drop by during our Immediate Access Hours. Catching injury before something serious happens is critical to reduce healing time and keep you in the game. So don’t just cheer for your favorite team, cheer for everyone’s ankles and the podiatrists who keep your favorite players running, jumping, dunking, and winning. Happy March Madness! Go Buckeyes!