The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine

Clubfoot Is More Common Than You May Think – Exploring Causes and Treatments

Posted by on Thursday, November 14th, 2013

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Do you know what comedian Damon Wayans, Olympic figure skater Kristi Yamaguchi, and NFL quarterback Troy Aikman have in common? They were all born with the most common congenital birth defect: clubfoot! This condition affects one in 500 babies and must be treated to avoid complications later in life.

What Is Clubfoot?

Clubfoot is a deformity present at birth where the feet turn inward, rotated at the ankle so the feet face each other. The baby’s foot may appear twisted downward and inward. One or both feet may be affected. Usually there is no discomfort or pain unless the patient is trying to walk. Internally, the tendons may be shortened, the Achilles tendon is tightened, the calf muscles are weak, and the bones may have taken on an unusual shape.

What Causes Clubfoot?

For years, the cause of clubfoot was a mystery, although it seemed that boys were twice as likely to get it and it tended to run in families. In 2008, researchers at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis identified a mutation in PITX1a gene involved in critical early development of lower limbs. “We think that it is an abnormality of very early limb development, probably in the first trimester of pregnancy,” said lead researcher Christina Gurnett M.D., Ph.D. Two years later, they found mutations on chromosome 17 linked to limb abnormalities, developmental delays, and heart defects.

How Is Clubfoot Treated?

Words like “clubfoot” or “congenital deformity” tend to conjure up a lot of fear in parents who worry that their child will have lifelong trouble walking. However, it’s nothing to fear. Children born with club feet will be able to grow up, play sports, and lead normal lives with no trace of the condition.

Standard treatment involves gentle manipulation and “Ponseti Method” casting of the feet over the course of several weeks. The foot is moved just ten degrees each week until a straight position is reached. When the casting is done, the child must wear special shoes for three months to keep the feet aligned in the right position. Then they will just need to wear them at night until age four.

ponseti method
Image Source: ClubFootClub.org

A real noticeable difference will be visible after about six months, but the child will still need to wear leg braces for several years as the limbs grow. Though it’s a long, sometimes emotional, process, modern breakthroughs have made successful treatment possible.

clubfoot brace
Image Source: MilestoneMom.com

Clubfoot In NYC: There’s No Harm In Seeing A Podiatrist.

“When a patient in North America has an extreme case of clubfoot, it can likely be recognized and treated early,” says Dr. Nadia Levy. “Some children are born with mild variants of the problem that may not be recognized early enough, which can lead to long-term complications. If you feel that the shape of your child’s foot is questionable, there is no harm in getting a second opinion and possibly some reassurance.”

The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine has specialists on hand with extensive experience in treating congenital deformities like clubfoot using the Ponsetti Method and complementary therapies. If there is any question as to your child’s development, we invite you to contact us right away to arrange an appointment in Manhattan or White Plains.

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If you have any foot problems or pain, contact The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports MedicineDr. Josef J. GeldwertDr. Katherine Lai, Dr. Ryan Minara and Dr. Mariola Rivera have helped thousands of people get back on their feet. Unfortunately, we cannot give diagnoses or treatment advice online. Please make an appointment to see us if you live in the NY metropolitan area or seek out a podiatrist in your area.