The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine

AFL News: How Port Adelaide’s Jared Polec Dodged a Career-Ending Broken Navicular

Posted by on Wednesday, March 2nd, 2016

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When Port Adelaide midfielder Jared Polec became yet another AFL player to be stricken down with a dreaded broken navicular, doctors told him he would probably never play the sport again. Yet the speedy player defied tradition by returning to his post just ten months after injuring his left foot. According to The Herald Sun“going slow”saved the 23-year-old’s AFL career.

stress fractures in the feet
The navicular bone accounts for about 25% of all stress fractures in the feet. (Image Source: FootHealthFacts.org)

What Is the Navicular Bone and What Happens When It Breaks?

Podiatry Today states that approximately 25% of all stress fractures in the feet involve the navicular bone. Athletes generally injure the navicular while kicking, sprinting, twisting, or fallingThe navicular bone is located on the inner side of the foot just above the arch, near the posterior tibial tendon. Its primary function is to connect the anklebone to the cuneiform bones of the foot. It is an area fraught with loads of cartilage and poor blood supply, so healing here can be particularly tricky.

To deal with the pain, limping, and gait alterations, treatment includes a non-weight-bearing cast and often surgical implantation with screws and casting. One small study by Khan and colleagues determined that conservative treatment of six to eight weeks of immobilization followed by two to six weeks of gradual weight bearing rehabilitation was effective for 19 of 22 patients. The 86% successful outcome within five months was superior to the 73% reported success rate for patients who underwent surgery.

See Also: Tough Break: Fractured Navicular Bone

What Happened to Jared Polec?

Polec’s foot injury occurred in the first quarter of the Power’s home opener against Sydney on April 11th, 2015. “It just progressed and after the Crows game, I could not put my foot down. I turned to (fitness coach Darren Burgess) after singing the song and said, ‘I broke my foot,’” he told The Advertiser. 

Despite the success of nonsurgical treatment, many medical professionals told Jared Polec he needed surgery. “I had seen a few surgeons [and] most of them weren’t too confident with it. They were trying to push for surgery. A few were talking about fusing it which means I would not have been able to run again.”

Polec opted to follow the advice of specialist Kim Slater instead and resolved to give himself up to a year of rest and rehabilitation rather than running or going under the knife. On his 200th day of recovery, Polec’s pain resurfaced, giving him doubts about the success of his recovery. The pain was connected to an increase in load during training sessions; he scaled back, and the pain went away.

Had Jared Polec succumbed to his injury, he wouldn’t be the first pro football player to drop with a navicular fracture. Others include Matthew Egan (Geelong) and Jack Trengove (Melbourne). Others like Shaun Higgins (Western Bulldogs) and Tom Curran (North Melbourne) are still in the trenches, battling the recurring injury and trying to determine if they’ll ever play in the AFL again.

You May Also Like: NBA News: Noncompliance Leads to Second Navicular Stress Fracture Surgery for Joel Embiid

Navicular Stress Fracture Treatment in NYC

The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine works with a wide range of athletes, including professional football players, to treat acute and chronic foot and ankle injuries. Dr. Josef Geldwert has served as the team podiatrist for the NY Power (WUSA) and NY Magic (W League), in addition to serving as the on-field podiatrist for a Women’s World Cup game (USA vs. Denmark). Our experienced rehabilitation team, board-certified podiatrists, and podiatric surgeons regularly help players work through a broken navicular to return to the sports they love. Contact us for a diagnosis and to explore your full range of options.

You May Also Be Interested In: Navicular Bone Fracture Rehab

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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.