World Cup fever has hit across the world! Even here in Houston, TX, where soccer usually takes a back seat to most other team sports, people are talking about it. It won’t be long until we start hearing vuvuzela blasts around town.
In my Houston podiatry practice in the Galleria area, I have treated many soccer players, from kids running after the ball to collegiate and semi-pro players. There are a few common foot and ankle injuries that are most common to these athletes.
One of the most common situations I see is not an injury from playing soccer at all, but from the shoes. Soccer players notoriously wear their shoes too tight. This causes problems with their toes forming painful corns and calluses, toenails getting bruised from the added pressure, and even ingrown toenails that become painful and infected. Soccer players insist that the shoes need to be tight to allow them to feel the ball. The truth really lies in the culture of the sport and the athletes would be better served with well fitting shoes.
During game play, sprained and broken ankles are common, as they are with most turf sports. Ankle injuries occur because of the starting, stopping and pivoting motions of the foot. When a soccer player makes a sudden pivot, they stand a good chance of being off balance and rolling their ankle. This injury can be prevented by wearing an ankle brace or taping the ankle. Ankle injuries that occur should be cared for immediately. Early immobilization and therapy to restore strength and balance have been proven to allow for the most complete recovery and return to play. Of course an ankle fracture is more serious and required immediate attention.
Turf toe is another common soccer injury. Although more associated with football, it is common whenever the great toe joint can become overextended. This creates a jamming of the joint and severe chronic pain. This can keep a soccer player on the sidelines, but can be controlled. The mechanics must be addressed with a custom orthotics to redistribute the pressure on the great toe joint. A thin carbon steel insole can also support the joint and can reduce the pain significantly in a matter of days.
The World Cup will do doubt trigger an increase in youth and adult involvement in soccer. An understanding of the possible injuries, prevention, and early detection and treatment will lead to a much more thorough enjoyment of the sport.