Active Summit County Residents at Risk for Foot and Ankle Injuries
If you live in Summit County, chances are you or someone you know has experienced a foot or ankle injury. Whether you’re a mountain biker, rock climber, boarder or hiker, your feet can take a beating. Even ski boots don’t protect you from foot and ankle injuries. Below you’ll find descriptions of just some of the common foot and ankle injuries mountain living can dish out.
Sesamoid Injuries occur in small bones called sesamoid bones embedded within the tendons and muscles of the foot. Sesamoid bones in the ball of the foot can become irritated over time if your ski boots or hiking boots are too tight. They can also become irritated or break during endurance running or repetitive jumping. Symptoms may include pain in the ball of the foot or big toe along with swelling and bruising. Sesamoid injuries can be diagnosed with an MRI and treated with a walker, boot cast and rest. In severe cases, surgery may be recommended to remove bone fragments.
Peroneal Tendon Injuries occur in the tendons and muscles on the outside of your lower leg and foot. The most common peroneal tendon injury is inflammation or tendonitis. Downhill skiers may suffer from this type of injury as a result of aggressive edging. It can also occur from a sudden activity that forces your foot upward toward your shin, such as rolling your ankle on a rock while running or landing on your feet after a fall. Symptoms include aching and swelling on the lower outside area of the ankle. The condition can be diagnosed with a physical exam. In some cases an X-ray or other scan may be recommended. Treatment includes rest, ice, elevating your ankle, anti-inflammatories and possibly pain medications. Pain often improves within a few weeks, but more severe injuries can take several months or longer to heal.
Achilles Rupture is a complete tear of the Achilles tendon, a large band in the back of the ankle that connects the calf muscle to the heel bone. If your Achilles ruptures, you may hear a pop and experience severe pain and the sensation of being hit. In most cases, it will also be impossible to walk. Your doctor can diagnose a rupture by squeezing your calf muscle. If the Achilles is ruptured, your foot won’t move. Surgical repair is often recommended to speed healing and avoid a second rupture. One of the best ways to avoid an Achilles injury is to stretch before and after activity.
Ankle Fracture (Break) is a partial or complete break in a bone. Ankle fractures are often caused by the ankle rolling inward or outward. Symptoms include pain at the site of the fracture, significant swelling and bruising and in most cases an inability to walk. Your doctor can diagnose a fracture with a physical exam and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Treatment of ankle fractures depends upon the severity of the break. Non-surgical treatments start with the RICE protocol (rest, ice, compression and elevation). In severe cases, surgery may be recommended to repair the bone.
The Bottom Line: If you’re an athlete or physically active, your feet and ankles are among the most common sites for both acute (short term) and chronic (long term) injuries. Dr Xan Courville is a fellowship trained orthopedic surgeon who specializes in foot and ankle conditions at Summit Orthopedics. She makes it possible for you to receive advanced, specialized care without having to leave the mountains.