The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine

Professional Parkour: Traceurs Get Psyched Out By Lisfranc

Posted by on Friday, January 11th, 2013

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Unless you’ve had your head in a hole over the past few years, you know about parkour. It’s a freestyle cross between gymnastics and cross-country running—spider man meets Jacky Joyner Kersey in a gloves off, blow out across America’s industrial landscapes. If you’ve ever seen a professional traceur (the word for someone who does the sport), you know its strange and incredible beauty. Just like in any extreme sport, professionals get sponsorships and media deals to perform, and they have plenty of foot injuries to show for it. As someone who has dabbled in the sport, I can tell you the other side of parkour’s glory: the gut-clenching fear as you hurtle towards a cement wall at top speed.

Strangely enough, the truly fearless sportsmen seem to get hurt less often than the deathwish-less rest of us, since they don’t hesitate. But those masters also suffer the worst injuries when they do happen, because they’re taking the most insane risks. There are a few common foot and ankle injuries in parkour. Bruises and ankle sprains are a daily occurrence. But the real killers are the fractures and dislocations, particularly those in areas that take a long time to heal. I’m talking about you, Lisfranc.

A Lisfranc break or dislocation is a midfoot injury that affects one of the five bones that comprise the top of the foot between the ankle and toes. Lisfranc injuries can vary widely in severity, from mildly painful and annoying to totally debilitating. Breaks are usually the result of crushing impacts (landing way too hard on an unforgiving surface). Dislocations are the result of twists and tweaks (from stepping in a hole, off a curb, or off a ledge 50 feet in the air). Even subtle Lisfranc injuries require rehabilitation which typically involves a few weeks of rest, in mild cases, a cast, in moderate cases, and surgery, in severe cases. This is not an injury to take lightly.

So what is it about parkour that makes this injury so damaging? It’s the mental game, of course. Any injury can throw an athlete off. The fear of pain makes a person hesitate and in a sport like parkour, any hesitation can be extremely dangerous. Injury can also make an athlete misjudge a distance. She may have been able to jump 15 feet across two buildings before the injury. Now, she can only jump 10. Misjudging distance ended up being fatal for a Russian parkour athlete in June who fell 17 storeys to her death. Foot pain and fear of re-injury is a common reason why athletes seek out sports psychologists. In parkour, the mental game is just as important as the physical: you need to be in tiptop shape in both arenas to stay safe.

If you’re an extreme athlete and think you may have a Lisfranc injury (consistent pain and bruising on the bottom of the foot are the most common symptoms) visit The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine. Continuing to participate in parkour with one of these injuries can have severe consequences from lifelong arthritis to fallen arches.

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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.