Football Is Over—Dealing with Injuries Is Not

Robert G. Parker
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Dr. Parker is a podiatrist and surgeon in Houston, TX who has been helping patients for more than 40 years.

Super Bowl 50 is all over but the crying—and that could be true for winners as well as losers. The unlucky team may be crying over its loss, but even winners who get injured may be crying over the weeks of pain and physical therapy they will have to undergo because of common football injuries.

You don’t need to be a pro to get injured playing football, or any other sport for that matter. If you’re an athlete at any level, you should know the risks, take steps to protect your feet and ankles, and seek help at the first sign of trouble—doing so will help the recovery go quicker and help minimize the risk of re-injury or chronic problems.

You’ve likely been hearing about problems with concussions, and serious knee issues involving ligaments and cartilage are also common. These require lengthy recuperations and may keep some players out of the game indefinitely.

Knee diagramOne common injury from sports such as football is damage to the common fibular nerve in the outer and upper calf. This can cause weakness in lifting your foot, which is known as partial or total foot drop, as well as burning and tingling down the leg into the foot. New surgical procedures are available that are designed to decompress, release the fibrous tissue (like in carpal tunnel in the hand) that is pressing on the injured calf, and thus resolve the burning, tingling, and drop foot. A past president (in 2013) and advanced surgical faculty member of the Association for Extremity Nerve Surgeons, Dr. Parker is one of the nation’s leading experts in surgical nerve decompression techniques.

Another frequent injury is ankle sprains. Because of artificial turf and the quick cuts, turns, and side-to-side movements of the game, the ligaments holding the ankle together are under constant strain during practice and play. Healing well from overstretched or torn ligaments can take weeks and may require a relatively simple repair called a Broström procedure and physical therapy. About 20% of ankle sprains stretch nerves to their limit, known an neurapraxia, which manifests as burning, tingling, and shooting pain in the lower leg, similar to a common fibular nerve injury.

Other common foot injuries include ankle or metatarsal fractures. Lisfranc fractures in the middle of your foot are especially problematic, often requiring casting or surgery, with long recoveries and a real risk for developing arthritis in the joint later.

Soft tissue injuries are also common when overuse or intensive training is involved. These include plantar fasciitis under the arch and heel, Achilles tendinitis at the back of the ankle, turf toe or sesamoiditis in the great toe, and tibialis posterior tendonitis along the inner side of the foot and ankle that can lead to flat foot problems. In kids, heel pain from calcaneal apophysitis is a common complaint.

Because of the constant collisions and falls, any part of your body is susceptible to injury when playing football, and players continue to deal with many of these long after the season is over. If you or your child sustain a foot or ankle injury—whether from football or other activities—don’t wait for it to resolve on its own.

Call Parker Foot & Ankle to have it evaluated, and start treatment as soon as possible and for as long as required for full healing. Going back to activity too soon is the quickest way to set yourself up for chronic pain, immobility, and complications like arthritis. You can reach our Houston, TX office by dialing (281) 497-2850 or filling out the contact form on our website. Sports injuries is one of our specialties, so you can trust our expert care for your feet.

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