Getting Into the Olympic Spirit

It’s a big night tonight as billions of people worldwide will tune in to watch the opening ceremony for the 2018 Winter Olympic Games, hosted in Pyeongchang by South Korea.

As a note before we go further, you may see the city/county spelled “PyeongChang”—with the “c” obviously capitalized—and think one or the other must be incorrect, but this isn’t actually the case. Whereas the city doesn’t normally use the mid-name capitalization, this practice—a form of spelling known as CamelCase—was done intentionally for these Olympic Games so people unfamiliar with the city (which is probably quite a lot given the international nature of this event…) don’t confuse it with the capital of North Korea – Pyongyang.

(They say you learn something new every day, right?)

Anyhow, Olympic opening ceremonies are always an impressive event, full of something, something else, and, of course, the Parade of Nations!

Whereas other elements of the opening ceremonies are inspiring and educational, the Parade of Nations is simply an uplifting event to watch. The athletes are so proud to be representing their respective nations at the Games and the amount of sheer joy displayed as they follow the designated flagbearer can be truly heartwarming.

Beyond the opening ceremonies, the Games themselves feature world-class athletes performing simply remarkable feats as they give everything they have to represent their home nations.

For the United States, our Olympic team has approximately 240 athletes (although that number is subject to change based on injury, illness, or exceptional circumstances). They will, naturally, compete in a wide range of sports and events, like alpine skiing, ice skating, curling, and bobsledding.

As these athletes (and those from our fellow nations) are chasing their dreams and trying to bring home the gold on the slopes, ice, or bobsled tracks, they do so knowing there’s a chance for potential injury. In spite of the risk, they will give their full effort to achieve goals set many years earlier.

In all likelihood, you aren’t an Olympic athlete. (If you are, though, good luck!) Hopefully, you lead an active life, but you probably don’t push your body to quite the same levels as do Olympians. This doesn’t mean you’re exempt from injury risk, however.

No matter who you are, there’s always a chance you could potentially sustain an injury when moving your body. You don’t even have to be participating in anything remotely athletic – many ankle sprains happen simply from misjudging a stair or curb. If you’re in motion, an accident might happen. This is just a fact of life.

Given our reliance upon them for mobility, independence, and even the ability to just stand upright, feet and ankles are especially susceptible to injury.

Some common foot and ankle sports injuries we treat for our patients include:

  • Achilles tendinitis. This overuse injury to the Achilles tendon causes pain in the back of your heel. The pain is more severe during physical activity and starts to subside with rest.
  • Ankle sprains. Your ankle joints are supported by ligaments connecting the bones that form the respective joints. When a foot is twisted beyond the intended range of motion for those ligaments, you have this very common injury. It is important to make sure an ankle sprain is completely healed before you resume normal activity. Failure to do so can lead to chronic ankle instability.
  • Plantar fasciitis. This particular condition is the leading cause of heel pain for adults. It happens when the plantar fascia—a connective tissue running along the bottom of your foot—sustains tiny tears on account of overuse.
  • Stress fractures. Bones have a certain capacity for handling physical forces. When they are not given enough chance to repair and/or replace fatigued bone cells, tiny cracks form in the surface. In spite of their small size, they can cause tremendous amounts of pain.
  • Turf toe. In this injury, the ligaments supporting the joint at the base of the big toe—your metatarsophalangeal (MTP) joint—have been extended beyond their intended range of motion. This can happen if the toe bends too far back/upwards – often when the foot is planted and forward momentum continues.

That list is not exhaustive, but it at least gives you an idea of some problems athletes face on a fairly frequent basis.

Fortunately, there are measures you—or anyone else (like your friends and loved ones)—can take to lower the risk of sustaining common foot and ankle injuries. These include things like:

  • Stretching on a regular basis to keep muscles and connective tissues limber.
  • Easing into new activities and making gradual increases to training intensity and/or duration.
  • Always warming up and doing some dynamic stretches before physical activity.
  • Drinking plenty of water to avoid muscle cramps in your legs and feet.
  • Wearing proper footwear, including shoes, boots, and ice skates that fit well (neither too tight nor too loose).
  • Listening to your body! If something isn’t feeling quite right, come see us so we can identify any potential issues and then create a plan to address it.

Of course, even the best injury prevention methods aren’t 100% effective in avoiding physical injuries and there are ways you might hurt a foot or ankle. If you do, it is important for you to take the right steps to ensure optimal healing:

  • First aid. In most cases, you need to start your injury recover with the tried-and-true first aid practice of RICE therapy. This is a matter of Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation to prevent further injury, control swelling, and manage pain.
  • Medication. Along with RICE, you will probably benefit from some kind of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID). These can be bought over-the-counter, but make sure you check with our office for appropriate dosage recommendations.
  • Professional diagnosis and treatment. Some issues are fairly obvious and might benefit from home care, but there are also many foot and ankle sports injuries that require professional diagnosis and treatment. For example, ankle sprains and fractures can both exhibit almost identical symptoms. We can use advanced diagnostic tools you probably don’t have at home to determine exactly what is the problem. And then we have the training, knowledge, and experience to create a customized treatment plan to resolve it for you.

Our treatment plan for you will depend on an array of factors. The nature of your injury, lifestyle goals, and other factors all play a role in determining what is the best course of action for you.

Fortunately, a vast majority of foot and ankle sports injury can be resolved with conservative (nonsurgical) treatment. If surgery is our recommend approach, you can find comfort in the fact our team is also quite experienced in helping patients overcome problems via surgical intervention as well.

In the event you, your spouse, or any of your children sustain a foot or ankle injury on the ice, slopes, sledding hills, or pretty much anywhere else, come see us at our Ebensburg office. We will provide the care you need!

For more information, or to request an appointment, give us a call at (814) 472-2660.