All athletes are aware of the possibility of injury when participating in intense activities. Many injuries are avoidable if athletes stretch and warm up properly before exercising. However, some injuries can occur no matter how prepared an athlete is. If you are an athlete and feel pain in your lower legs, ankles, or feet, you should meet with a podiatrist. They are professionals in diagnosing and treating injuries in those areas of the body.
Here are some injuries a podiatrist can treat.
1. ACL Tear or Sprain
The anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) is a major stabilizing ligament in the knee. The ACL can tear or sprain when doing movements like slowing down, then trying to pivot or change direction quickly. This injury is common in soccer players.
If you have torn or sprained your ACL, you may feel symptoms like swollen knees, instability when walking, and pain in the ACL area. An ACL injury can be either Grade 1, Grade 2, or Grade 3. Depending on the grade level of the injury, a podiatrist would suggest different types of treatment. For a minor sprain (Grade 1), an athlete should rest, ice, and elevate their knee. For a major tear (Grade 3), you will likely need surgery. All grades will involve doing physical therapy as part of the treatment process.
Recovery time depends on the severity of the injury, but generally, a podiatrist will tell you the recovery period is anywhere from six months to a year.
2. Ankle Sprain
The two types of ankle sprains are inversion and eversion. Inversion ankle sprains occur when the foot twists inwards, causing damage to the outer ligaments of the foot. An eversion sprain is the opposite, where the foot twists outward, causing damage to the inner ligaments. Usually, eversion sprains cause more severe damage.
Ankle sprains are also separated into three grades. Grade 1 is the least severe and is characterized by minimal tenderness and swelling. Treatment involves the R.I.C.E. method, which is rest, ice, compression, and elevation.
Grade 2 is moderately severe and characterized by moderate tenderness and swelling, some instability, and decreased range of motion. A podiatrist will recommend the R.I.C.E. method combined with immobilization with a brace or splint.
Grade 3 is the most severe injury and treatment involves complete immobilization with a boot for several weeks. For all levels, podiatrists recommend doing weight-bearing exercises as soon as possible.
3. Shin Splints
A common injury in runners, shin splints occur when the level of activity increases too rapidly. For this reason, shin splints are often diagnosed at the beginning of the sports season. You will know you have shin splints if you have tenderness and/or soreness in your shins. You may also feel pain both when exercising and when not.
A podiatrist will recommend treating your shin splints with the R.I.C.E. method. You should also gradually increase how much you run. Wearing shoes with good arch support will help prevent shin splints as well.
All sports injuries are characterized by pain in some form, so if you start to feel pain suddenly in your lower legs, ankles, or feet, you should schedule a visit with a podiatrist right away. Procrastinating treatment will only exacerbate the injury and prolong the recovery period.
Reach out to a podiatrist for more information about sports injury treatments.