Sport Injuries and Pedorthics

Prevention & Recovery

Appropriate footwear can help athletes avoid or mitigate foot injuries. Footwear can also play a major role in rehabilitation and recovery. Credentialed pedorthists play a significant role on an athlete's health care team because they specialize in shoes and foot orthoses.


Foot injuries can be underdiagnosed or difficult to recognize simply because the foot has so many parts – 26 bones, plus ligaments, joints, tendons and muscles – that can be injured. A credentialed pedorthist, working with a medical practitioner, can be of unique assistance by focusing on the foot, orthosis and shoe as a unit.


Increased Risk of Injury

Many sports subject the foot to excessive weight loads. For example, during a normal run of 10 miles, the foot strikes the ground approximately 15,000 times with a force equal to three or four times the runner's body weight. Speed helps determine the force with which foot and ground meet. Greater speeds mean greater pressures on the lower extremities. The foot must absorb the stress. When the sport requires sudden starts, stops or changes in direction, even more stress is placed on the foot and the foot/shoe interface, which increases the risk of foot injury.


Most sports injuries can be broadly categorized as acute or chronic. Acute injuries are "fresh” ones with fairly obvious causes and effects. Chronic injuries usually occur from overuse, repetitive motion or stress. Because athletes sometimes play through pain – ignoring an injury, or favoring the injured spot and putting unusual pressure on other areas of the foot to compensate - they can experience additional damage without realizing it.

 

Shoes as Sports Equipment

For amateur and elite athletes, the shoe is the most important piece of equipment, because contact between the foot and the athletic surface is fundamental to accomplishment. Most athletes recognize this by choosing sport-specific footwear – but even a sport-specific shoe cannot address such factors as amount or duration of training time; intensity of performance; the surface involved; or the athlete's physical history, weight, foot type and foot shape. Working with a credentialed pedorthist can help with shoe selection based upon these factors.


No matter the sport, athletic shoes are expected to perform contradictory functions – for example, to be lightweight and flexible, but at the same time provide good cushioning, support and protection. Many sports require the foot to perform contradictory maneuvers one after the other, as well: start/stop, forward/backward, side to side. Since this creates considerable stress on the foot, months or years of athletic activity can create more wear-and-tear than would otherwise occur. Through shoe modifications and foot orthoses, pedorthics helps athletes accommodate, correct or compensate for that greater-than-average wear-and-tear.


Relieving Pressures

The foot itself has a natural fatty heel pad that helps distribute weight pressures safely. Over the years, the pad wears down, lowering the heel's ability to absorb shock. A credentialed pedorthist can recommend shoes and fabricate orthoses that help the athlete deal with this natural breakdown. Most athletic shoes today are manufactured with an inlay, a removable pad that acts as a shock absorber. A credentialed pedorthist can replace the manufacturer's standard inlay with one tailored to the athlete's needs, according to a doctor's prescription.


Individual Help

By modifying a shoe, a credentialed pedorthist can make it possible for an athlete to wear the appropriate bandaging, bracing or other footwear devices that a doctor may prescribe to facilitate healing. Although most shoe modifications for athletes fall into broad categories – like shanks, wedges, stabilizers or rocker bottoms – they must be individualized for the person and the sport. Since even a personally tailored shoe or orthosis can't assist every athlete in every situation, sport-related foot injuries will continue to occur – and pedorthics can help during the recovery process.


In fabricating an orthosis, the credentialed pedorthist creates a tool to compensate for a problem, which helps allow injuries to heal more quickly. As healing progresses, the orthosis or shoe may require additional changes – to the shoe itself; in the sock thickness, size or fabric; in the shape, depth or materials of the foot orthosis; or in a combination of footwear components.


Whether the need is preventive, accommodative, conservative or compensatory, pedorthics can help athletes remain active and enjoy their sport to the fullest.


Patients may be eligible through health insurance for partial or full reimbursement for footwear prescribed to accommodate or alleviate medical conditions.

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