The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine

Foot Injuries in Football

Posted by on Tuesday, August 28th, 2012

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I’m always a little torn this time of year. On the one hand, I don’t want the beautiful summer weather to disappear, but on the other, I can’t wait for football season to start.

Football (we’re talking American football here, not what the rest of the world calls football and we call soccer) is the most popular sport in the US, watched by millions every week. It’s entertaining for spectators, but undoubtedly tough on the players. Actually, let’s be honest, it’s incredibly brutal for the players; their careers are often short and their health permanently affected. It is, as they say, not a contact sport, but a collision sport.

(Now I just made myself feel bad for liking football. Moment of doubt and recrimination. Okay, I’m back.)

Anyway, the biggest concern with football players of all ages  is concussions and other traumatic head and neck injuries. However, football  players’ feet and ankles are at high risk for injury, too. Here  are some of the most common lower leg traumatic football injuries:

  • Ankle sprains and ankle fractures – Running and changing directions at high speeds can lead to many degrees of ankle twists and turns.
  • High ankle sprains – The frustratingly slow to heal sprain found above the ankles bones can be hard to diagnose correctly.
  • Toe fractures – Toes can be broken by landing on them wrong–or having someone else land on them.
  • Foot bone fractures – When very large men step on a foot, the foot tends to break.
  • Lisfranc injuries – The array of bones and ligaments that make up the Lisfranc complex can be sprained by something as simple as an awkward step
  • Turf toe – Not grass growing on a toe, but a hyperextended toe, usually from getting caught in the turf while being tackled or cutting in another direction.
  • Peroneal tendon injuries – The peroneal tendon attaches to your midfoot and under your arch;  it can slip out of place.
  • Achilles tendon ruptures – The Achilles tendon can blow out whenever it’s put under sudden, excess strain. Think pushing off to a sprint or cutting back and forth.
  • Cuts and bruises – Yes, they happen even with shoes on.

Football players train a lot, too, so they’re also likely to suffer overuse injuries:

  • Plantar fasciitis – Strain on the band of tissue that stretches across the bottom of your feet can lead to heel pain and heel spurs.
  • Achilles tendonitis – An Achilles tendon strain isn’t as devastating as a rupture, but it can hurt a lot.
  • Sesamoiditis – This comes from excess pressure on your forefoot, such as from jumping or bouncing on your forefoot.
  • Stress fractures – Little cracks can appear in your foot bones from excess pounding, such as frequent running.
  • Posterior tibial tendon injuries – These are wear and tear injuries that can lead to fallen arches if they’re not taken care of correctly.

How can football players avoid these injuries? Well, there’s no foolproof way to avoid them. After all, it’s football–you’re going to run and get hit hard. Here’s what players can do to at least help their chances of staying on the field and out of the pool in the training room:

  • Make sure you’re being coached properly and taught to tackle and run the right way (this is especially important for parents of young players).
  • Make sure you’re stretched before playing; add flexibility training to your workouts, like yoga and pilates (seriously, it’s not just a girl thing).
  • Strengthen your feet to protect them. Really, you can make your feet stronger. Try these exercises.
  • Make sure you’re wearing the right shoes! Always wear shoes made for your sport.
  • If you’re prone to foot problems, see a podiatrist at The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine (212.996.1900) to talk about remedies, such as orthotics that can provide extra support and stability for your feet.

It’s unlikely that you can play football and not get hurt somehow, but you’d live a pretty dull life if you did nothing in order to keep yourself from getting hurt. Just watch out for your feet and ankles, and if they’re injured let them heal properly. Once they’re ready, you can get back in the game.

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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.