Learn About 5 Common Foot and Ankle Injuries

Ankle Injuries, Physical Rehabilitation, Sports Medicine


Your feet and ankles are a complex network of bones, ligaments, and tendons that work together to give you mobility. However, those same bones and ligaments are vulnerable to injury.

Your feet and ankles bear your weight with every step. So, it’s no surprise these joints are especially vulnerable to injury. Whether you play a high-intensity sport like football, hike along uneven surfaces, or run on pavement, your feet and ankles may get sprained or even fractured if you don't take good care of them.

Being aware of common foot and ankle injuries can help you take preventative measures to protect those joints. Or, if your foot or ankle is injured, you can start treatment right away to begin the healing process.

Five common foot and ankle injuries

Your feet and ankles are made up of a complex network of bones, muscles, and ligaments. The ankle consists of four major bones: the tibia, fibula, talus, and calcaneus, also known as the heel bone. Ligaments hold these bones together.

Meanwhile, your foot has 26 bones, 30 joints, and more than 100 muscles, tendons, and ligaments. This structure provides the foot with mobility as well as stability.

These bones and ligaments can be injured if they are stretched beyond their limits. Let’s review the five most frequent traumas to the foot and ankle area:

Fractures. Fractures to the foot or ankle bones can take two forms. Stress fractures are tiny, nearly invisible cracks in the bones of the foot that develop over a long period of time due to regular running or exercising on hard surfaces. Ankle and foot bones can suffer a more traumatic break if you slip and fall, or after hard contact during a sports game or practice. Breaks heal quickly with treatment, But if the fifth metatarsal, the bone located in the foot’s arch, is broken, it may require a screw to mend it.

Achilles tendonitis or tear. Running from the calf muscle to your heel is the Achilles tendon. Although thick and strong, the tendon is susceptible to tears and inflammation from overuse, such as intense running, or if you play a sport like football that requires quick changes in direction. Surgery is often needed to repair a ruptured Achilles tendon.

Ankle sprains. While ligaments are quite flexible, they can buckle when overstretched. Hiking or running on uneven ground can cause an ankle to twist or roll in an unusual fashion, resulting in a sprain. In football, high ankle sprains of the syndesmosis — the ligament connecting the tibia and fibula — are common. Minor sprains can heal with rest and icing. However, high ankle sprains are more serious and may need a brace or boot to keep the ankle immobile while it recovers.

Plantar fasciitis. A thick, fibrous tissue, the plantar fascia runs under the foot from the heel to the toes. Repetitive motions such as running regularly can inflame the tissue, causing heel pain. The pain is most acute when waking or after a long period of inactivity. Rest, ice therapy, custom orthotics, and anti-inflammatory medications are the first lines of treatment for plantar fasciitis.

Turf toe. Most often seen in football players who play on artificial surfaces, turf toe is really an over-extension of the ligament in the toe, and that can happen to anyone. Conservative treatments including rest, physical therapy, and wearing a walking boot can heal turf toe. A more severe turf toe injury can result in a dislocated toe and may require surgery.

Many of these injuries occur because your body isn’t ready for intense activity. Warming up prior to exercising, staying hydrated, and wearing supportive footwear can lessen the chance of an ankle or foot injury. If you experience pain that doesn’t go away with rest, see a physical therapist for treatment to get you back on your feet again.

Get back on your feet now

At All Sports Physical Therapy, we’re experts in treating all types of foot and ankle injuries. Using guided physical therapy and other conservative methods, we’ll heal and strengthen your bones and muscles so you can get back to doing what you love. Contact us today for a consultation.

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