The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine

Six Bad Skateboarding Foot and Ankle Injuries (And Help for Avoiding Them)

Posted by on Monday, November 26th, 2012

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I was a little slow when it came to learning to ride a bike. Once I learned, though, I loved it. My favorite part was speeding down hills as fast as possible. When I said that to my parents, they looked less than happy, and probably began to hope that by the time I got to driving age cars would be obsolete and replaced by something like giant snails.

I was hardly the only kid to delight in the newly discovered thrill of rushing through the wind on some kind of wheeled vehicle. For kids who get really into skateboarding, though, speed is just the beginning of the adrenaline-seeking journey, something that is rapidly replaced by the gravity-defying joy of jumps, spins, and flips.

Learning those tricks can result in a lot of hard falls, though, and even the best in the business can find themselves out of commission thanks to bad injuries. While you can injure pretty much any part of your body while skateboarding, ankles and feet are particularly in danger, not only because of the likelihood of traumatic events, but also because of wear and tear that can cause repetitive use injuries.

Now we’re at a time of year where your child may be asking for a gift of a first or new skateboard. If you fulfill that wish, here are some common foot and ankle  skateboarding injuries that your young daredevil may encounter, and some tips for avoiding them:

Traumatic, or sudden injuries:

  • Fractures Yes, you can fracture your ankle, toe, or even heel when you take a bad fall. Skateboards can also land on your foot or roll over your toes. If you’re lucky, you just end up in a cast for six to eight weeks; if you’re unlucky, you have to have surgery, which extends the recovery time.
  • Sprains These can happen to your ankle, feet, or toes on any fall or stumble. Foot sprains aren’t common in everyday life, but if you have foot straps on your board, you’re at a risk for a sprain if your foot is caught in a strap going in one direction while the rest of your body goes in another. Now if you’re thinking, “Sprains are minor and better than fractures, right?” think again–broken bones heal predictably, but sprains, or damaged ligaments can be as severe as fractures and take just as long if not longer to return to normal health. High ankle sprains are particularly bad–they’re difficult to diagnose and can linger a frustratingly long period of time.
  • Cuts and bruises Don’t dismiss the power of a cut or a case of road rash–if dirt and gravel get into an open wound and you don’t take care of it, you risk developing a nasty infection. Bruises shouldn’t be taken lightly either–bone bruises can be seriously painful and take a long time to heal.

Repetitive Use Injuries

  • Plantar Fasciitis Think of how much you use your foot while you’re on a skateboard. The foot has the pressure of constantly pushing off and takes the force of all your jumps. After a while, you can develop plantar fasciitis, a strain of the plantar fascia, a thick band of tissue that connects your heel to your forefoot. This causes serious, nagging heel pain.
  • Achilles tendonitis The Achilles tendon, the tendon that connects your heel to your calf, plays a role in almost any move you make, whether it’s running, jumping, or just standing on your toes. Skateboarding, then, keeps your Achilles tendon really busy–so busy that it can wear down, suffer tiny tears and become inflamed. Then voila! Tendonitis.
  • Stress fractures It doesn’t always take a single traumatic event to break a bone–repeatedly landing on a bone can cause tiny cracks that eventually add up to a painful foot that can’t take your weight anymore.

So what can you do about foot and ankle injuries if you’re a skateboarder (or a parent of one)?

Know what you’re doing You may think you can learn how to do a trick by just watching someone else do it in a video you found online, but you’ll learn it better and more efficiently if you can have someone who knows how to do it break it down and help you master it. You can save a lot of falls just by having the proper technique.

Use the right equipment Choose the right size board for you. If you’re young, but want to be cool and use a full size skateboard just like the bigger kids in your neighborhood, well, you’re not likely to be reading this blog, but if you’re a parent of a kid who feels that way, don’t give in to the pleading. Get the kids’ size one that he or she can manage. Yes, soon it will be too small and you’ll have to buy another (unless said kid is now into something else), but you’ll be able to find someone else to take it off your hands. Even if you don’t, you won’t regret missing those trips to the emergency room.

Pay attention when it hurts When you fall hard, then you’ll probably know pretty fast if you have a broken bone and you’ll be off to the ER. If you feel nagging pain in your feet or ankle any other time, don’t ignore it–you could have a sprain that didn’t heal properly, or a repetitive use injury. Get it checked out by a podiatrist at The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine ( 212.996.1900 ) to find out what’s going on and figure out a treatment plan. The longer you let it go, the worse it will be.

Here are some more skateboarding safety tips, but in the end, if you or your child get really into it, you’re going to fall and hurt something. That’s no reason to be scared of it; kids get hurt playing every sport. Knowing the injuries you might have to face can make you feel a little more prepared, though.

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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.