The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine

NFL News: Football Careers Lead to a Lifetime of Crippling Foot and Ankle Pain

Posted by on Wednesday, February 17th, 2016

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NFL players seem to live a life of envy. How many other careers offer a base pay starting at $405,000 and less than ten years of mandatory work before qualifying for retirement benefits? Yet, as the Washington Post points out, the players pay a hefty price in “lifelong hurt.” It’s difficult for players to forget the hard hits resulting in torn ligaments, fractured bones, and contorted joints when 91% of them still feel the aches and pains on a daily basis.

foot and ankle injuries 2-17-16
Foot and ankle injuries are common among NFL players – and last for years after retirement. | Image Source: Flickr User COD Newsroom

NFL Injury Statistics

Here at The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine in NYC, we see a lot of current and former football players with chronic pain in their lower extremities. Our first goal is to stop the pain using the latest technology, but we don’t stop there. We also look at the underlying causes and the extent of the damage to see what we can do over the long-term to prevent the pain from returning and to improve mobility. Here’s some data from NFL football players about injuries throughout their careers:

  • 9 of 10 NFL players are glad they played the sport, but knowing what they know now about the long-term health implications, fewer than half would recommend that children play it.
  • More than 9 in 10 players suffered at least one major injury. More than half suffered three or more serious injuries. One in five players reported five or more major hurts.
  • 44% of players had or will need a joint replacement in their knees, hips, feet, or ankles.
  • Eight in 10 retired players reported chronic pain that lasts “most of the day.”
  • 50% of the 30,000 NFL injuries from 2002-2011 were orthopedic injuries to the knees, hips, shoulders and ankles.
  • 83% percent of NFL retirees  have undergone orthopedic surgery, with 3 in 10 reporting five or more surgeries.
  • 47% of former NFL players said their team doctors “prioritized interests of the team over their health.”
  • 49% of those surveyed said they wished they’d played through the pain less often.
  • 4 of 10 players sought outside medical advice with providers like The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine.

“It’s Like Walking On A Pirate Leg”

“It’s like walking on a pirate leg,” said Don Majkowski, ex-quarterback for the Green Bay Packers, who’s been retired for 17 years. He has undergone 20 surgeries, including 11 ankle surgeries. His left foot is in the worst shape, having been fused to the ankle with metal plates and 13 screws. It’s difficult for him to stand for long periods, and he experiences chronic pain even while sitting. He suffered numerous complications that have made recovery a challenge  from a staph infection in his ankle to bone spurs in his Achilles tendon that caused rupture. In addition to his foot and ankle injuries, he also suffers a banged up spine, shoulders and knees.

Green Bay Packer All-Pro offensive lineman Jerry Kramer broke bones in his lower leg and separated bones in his ankle, among other injuries. He told reporters: “I have learned fairly well to handle the pain. I find no comfort in dwelling on it or allowing it to impact my life.”

Former offensive tackle Roman Oben split his left foot in half in the 2006 off-season. At that point, he’d already won a Super Bowl with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and earned $10 million, but he opted to endure two reconstructive surgeries to continue playing rather than retire as his wife and mother urged him. According to The Washington Post, “Doctors fused the bone with a metal plate before wrapping it with a ligament from a cadaver.” He knew he would have difficulty walking as an older man, but he took the risk anyway. He played another six games before retiring. “I’m 40 years old going on 65,” he said. “God knows what I’ll feel like when I’m actually 65 years old.”

Get Football Foot and Ankle Injuries Treated By Professionals in NYC

The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine offers top-of-the-line foot and ankle injury treatment in NYC. Though your coach and teammates may dissuade you from seeking outside advice (as did 3 in 10 organizations of the players surveyed), you will find a high standard of care with our impartial third party podiatrists podiatric surgeons and sports medicine doctors. You shouldn’t feel daunted by the tales of surgery found here, as fusions are done far less often, and surgical techniques and outcomes have improved greatly in recent years. We use the latest technology, as well as time-tested therapies for pain and mobility, to address your foot and ankle injuries. Contact our office in Manhattan or Westchester.

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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.