Your foot is made up of 26 bones. Your ankle joint is formed by your ankle bone, known as your talus, and the end of your two lower leg bones, known as your tibia and fibula. Your ankle joint is stabilized and supported by three groups of ligaments. The foot and ankle move with help of muscles and tendons, including the Achilles tendon.
According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS), the most common foot and ankle injuries include:
Ankle sprains. Ankle sprains are one of the most common injuries in sports. Because your inner ankle is more stable than your outer ankle, during a fall, tackle or jump the foot is likely to turn inward - known as an ankle inversion - stretching or tearing ligaments. The result is an ankle sprain. The lateral ligament, located on the outer ankle, is most prone to injury.
Achilles tendon injury. The Achilles tendon, your body's strongest and thickest tendon, connects muscles in the lower leg with the heel bone. Sports such as basketball, running and high jumping that tighten the calf muscles can overstress your Achilles tendon and cause a strain - known as Achilles tendonitis - or a rupture. A direct blow to the foot, ankle, or calf can also injure your Achilles tendon.
Overuse injuries. Excessive training such as running long distances without rest places repeated stress on the foot and ankle, increasing the potential for stress fractures and muscle/tendon strains.
Shin splints. Pain in front of your shin bone, or tibia, is usually caused by a stress fracture, commonly known as shin splints. Athletes are at risk of this injury when they overtrain, wear poorly fitting athletic shoes, or change from soft to hard running surfaces.
The AAOS offers the following tips to help reduce your risk of foot and ankle injuries:
- Warm up before any sports activity, including practices.
- Participate in a conditioning program to build muscle strength.
- Do stretching exercises daily.
- Listen to your body: never run if you experience pain in the foot or ankle.
- Wear protective equipment appropriate for that sport.
- Replace athletic shoes as soon as the tread or heel wears out.
- Wear properly fitting athletic, dress, and casual shoes.