Common Foot and Ankle Football Injuries

As football season continues, the expectation of injuries follows. Dr. Mark Drakos, Orthopedic Surgeon, has answered a few of your questions on common football injuries to the foot and ankle.

1.What is turf toe?

Turf Toe is an injury to the ligament of the big toe joint. It occurs when the toe is hyper-extended beyond the normal limits of range of motion. Often this injury can occur when the foot is planted in the ground and then another player lands on the back of an athlete’s foot causing the toe to bend back even further. Most of the time, the injury is a sprain of the ligament and heals with time and conservative treatments. If the injury is severe the toe can dislocate and may need surgery.

2. What is a high ankle sprain?

A high ankle sprain is a sprain of the syndesmosis which is the ligament that connects the tibia and fibula bones. Normally an ankle sprain involves a twisting of the ankle and may involve the ligaments lower down in the ankle. Normally this takes 2-6 weeks to heal. A high ankle sprain usually indicates a more significant injury with more ligament damage and can take 6 – 12 weeks to heal.

3. How do Achilles tendon tears often occur on the gridiron?

They usually occur when an athlete is changing direction or exploding out of a crouched position. Cornerbacks can get Achilles tears when they quickly stop backpedalling and start accelerating like a sprinter would out of the starting blocks. The Achilles may then pop or tear completely. These injuries frequently require surgery to fix them.

4. In football, what are the most commonly fractured bones?

The ankle, the foot and the hand are among the most commonly fractured bones in football. Within the foot, the 5th metatarsal is a commonly fractured bone and often requires a screw to help mend it. Football players also often have rib fractures as there are many collisions in every game.

5.Is there a difference between playing football on turf fields and grass fields?

Yes, according to an NFL study by Hershman (et al.), there is an increased incidence of ACL injury and high ankle sprains when playing on synthetic turf fields versus grass fields. This is likely related to the different mechanical properties of the fields including how much friction can be generated on the field in addition to how soft or hard the fields are. Moreover, the fields may have different properties depending on the weather, what shoes an athlete chooses to wear and how well maintained that specific field is.

Dr. Mark Drakos is an orthopedic surgeon specializing in disorders of the foot and ankle as well as sports-related injuries. He did his undergraduate work in biomedical engineering at Harvard University and received his medical degree from SUNY Stony Brook. Dr. Drakos is the author of more than 50 peer-reviewed articles, book chapters and presentations involving orthopedics. He has directly provided care for high school, collegiate, professional, and Olympic athletes.



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