Sports injuries aren’t really news anymore considering professional athletes are one of only five occupations that report over 1,000 injuries for every 10,000 workers. But even though the public sees sports injuries as common, that doesn’t lessen the severity or life impact they can have on the athletes themselves. Right now, over 600 tennis players are gathered at Wimbledon hoping to take home the championship title, but for some of these athletes, injuries will hold them back.
Tennis players are at risk for any number of serious foot and ankle injuries so let’s look at some common ones:
Subungal hematomas: This refers to a collection of blood under the toenail causing a black coloring to appear under the nail. While these are not serious injuries, they can be quite painful. Usually a subungal hematoma will solve itself when the toenail grows out over several months, but occasionally it is necessary to drain the blood from under the nail or remove the toenail completely. This type of injury is most often caused by shoes that are too tight and don’t allow for proper movement of the toes.
Muscle cramps: Everyone reading this has had a cramped muscle at some point in the past. Proper stretching before activity as well as maintaining proper hydration and nutrition is the best way to prevent cramps. If you do get a leg or foot cramp, make sure you immediately begin stretching the area to help relieve the tight muscle. It may be necessary to remove shoes and socks to get to the painful area to provide a gentle massage with your hands and thumbs. Once the pain begins to lessen, put some weight on the injured foot or leg and make sure you walk around and continue to use and stretch the area. This will help prevent the cramp from immediately returning.
Ankle sprains: We’ve talked a lot about ankle sprains in the past so I won’t repeat myself too much, but the biggest thing about spraining your ankle is to rest it afterwards. Use the RICE method (rest, ice, compression, elevation). There are varying degrees of ankle sprains so you may want to visit your podiatrist if the pain persists for more than a day or two, during which time you should NOT overuse the affected ankle. If you try to walk off a sprain the way you walk off a cramp, you could end up injuring yourself further and be out for a whole season rather than just a couple games. For more information on ankle sprains click here.
Achilles tendonitis: Tendonitis is an umbrella term used to describe inflammation of a tendon over a muscle or bone. Our tendons are what allow our bodies to stretch in the ways they do. When we overuse or overload these tendons, they tend to revolt against us in painful ways. With an Achilles tendon, this can be a major issue because it is one of the major tendons that enable everyday walking and running. Yet again, the best thing to do is to immediately start the RICE method. Treatment for Achilles tendonitis can usually be done at home, but only after consulting with your podiatrist first. If left untreated, tendonitis can lead to a full tendon rupture, which is definitely not going to get you back in the game anytime soon. To learn more about your Achilles tendon click here.
Heel bruises: These are exactly what they sound like, a big, ugly, painful bruise on the back or bottom of your heel. Generally the bruise will appear over time and many athletes ignore them as a small problem that will go away easily. If you rest the affected foot (meaning no sports or any kind) the bruising may go away on its own. Better foot cushioning or padding for shoes can help prevent more occurrences of this. However, if a heel bruise is ignored, it can eventually alter the interior structure of the foot by flattening the fat pad under your heel causing more pain and a longer recovery time.
This is just a small sample of the many injuries that can affect tennis players and other athletes, but they are also the most common ones and luckily the most easily treated. The moral of the story is to listen to your feet, use proper pre and post care of your feet and legs, and if you do become injured, wait to go back into the game until you are completely healed. If you don’t you may never make it to Wimbledon.