Some foot conditions are congenital, meaning they are present from birth. Others happen over time due to your age or health. But foot and ankle trauma often happens quickly due to some type of activity that brings about a blunt force hit, fall, collision, or puncture wound. This type of trauma is usually obvious. For example, after a car accident, the injured party might need immediate emergency care for a crushed foot.
If you feel sustained pain or experience mobility issues from any kind of foot injury, see our skilled Texas podiatrist for an examination, diagnosis, and treatment.
Common Types of Foot and Ankle Trauma
Most foot and ankle trauma injuries are the result of blunt force—when something hits your foot or your foot hits something hard. The most common types of acute foot and ankle injuries that we see in our practice include:
Foot and Ankle Fractures
Whether you suffer a minor crack in a bone or a full break, foot fractures are a frequent injury that podiatrists diagnose and treat. Bone fractures in the foot or ankle typically occur due to trauma. When you experience an acute foot fracture, it usually happens suddenly, and you may hear the sound of the bone breaking and then feel excruciating pain. Our podiatrists will use imaging technology to help determine the extent of the fracture, and if the bones are misaligned, you will likely need a cast for the break to heal. Very serious breaks can take up to a year to heal completely.
Muscle Strains and Ankle Sprains
A foot strain happens when the tendons that attach muscle to the bone are stretched or torn. A foot sprain happens when the ligaments that connect the bones to the foot are torn or stretched. Often, these injuries occur after a sudden twist or turn of the foot, and the foot rolls inward or outward. Symptoms include pain, swelling, and limited range of motion. Proper rest and rehabilitation are crucial for recovery.
Foot tendon tears are often caused by sudden pressure on the tendon or falling on the foot. When the tendon tears, you may hear a snapping or a popping sound. You may feel immediate severe pain, and there’s likely to be bruising and swelling on the inside of your heel. It can take up to 8 – 12 weeks for a torn tendon to heal; however, it can take up to a year before it returns to full function and can accept a full load of stress and activity.
A foot contusion is simply a bruise on the foot. Contusions occur when blood vessels beneath the skin are damaged, and blood leaks out under the skin. This causes discoloration and swelling. Foot contusions usually are a result of a foot trauma such as dropping a heavy object on your foot or being kicked while engaging in a sporting event such as football or soccer. Symptoms include localized pain and tenderness, but typically, these injuries resolve with the RICE method of self-care: rest, ice, compression, and elevation.
Cuts and Puncture Wounds
Cuts and puncture wounds to the foot can occur when you walk barefoot outside and step on a sharp object or piece of glass or you walk on a nail or other sharp metal object. These injuries may range from superficial cuts to deep wounds with symptoms that can include bleeding, pain, redness, and swelling. Some wounds may need stitches, and some may require that you receive a tetanus shot.
Common Causes of Foot and Ankle Trauma Injuries
Car accidents are the leading cause of foot and ankle trauma, followed closely by sports injuries and slip and falls. However, many foot and ankle injuries we see at Alliance Foot and Ankle Specialists are caused by simple missteps, such as stepping off of a curb the wrong way or missing a stair. You can injure your foot without playing football or being involved in a vehicle collision. Here are the most common causes of foot and ankle trauma:
- Car accidents
- Sports and recreation injuries
- Slips and falls
- Falling objects
- Work accidents
Signs You Should See a Doctor for an Acute Foot Injury
Because foot injuries can range from minor trauma to very serious trauma that requires immediate medical assistance, it can be hard to know whether to grab an ice pack and wait to see if the injury heals or get to an emergency room.
Here are a few signs that you should visit our results-driven, experienced podiatrist for your foot or ankle injury:
- You are suffering from severe pain
- You cannot put weight on your foot, or your mobility is affected
- You experience persistent tenderness in your foot
- Your pain gets worse with use and better with rest
- Your foot swelling has not diminished within a couple of days
- You have numbness or tingling at the injury site
- You have extensive bruising at the injury site
- You have an open wound at the injury site that is painful, not healing, or oozing pus
- Your injury site is warm to the touch, and/or you begin to experience a fever
We cannot stress this enough: if you are debating whether or not to have your foot injury checked by a medical professional, you probably should. The consequences of not treating a broken bone or sprain in your foot could be serious and lead to chronic issues and longer recovery times. Even if you did not suffer a fracture, our podiatrists can help ensure that you treat your foot injury in a way that minimizes discomfort and speeds recovery.
Diagnosing Your Acute Foot Injury
When you see one of our dedicated podiatrists for a diagnosis, we will examine the affected area to determine how well you can move your foot or ankle; have you show us your ability to walk on the injured foot or ankle; discuss your symptoms; and ask about your pain level. We will also get a detailed medical history from you if you have not visited us before.
Based on the information collected from your exam and discussion with the doctor, imaging tests may likely follow, including an X-ray, MRI, ultrasound, or a CT Scan. These tests and exams will all help our team determine the best treatment plan for you.
Is Pain a Clear Sign of Foot or Ankle Trauma?
You might experience a variety of symptoms when you have trauma to the foot or ankle. Pain, especially when bearing weight, is a major sign of a foot or ankle injury. Limping due to this pain is a further sign of foot or ankle trauma, and you may find you have limited range of motion or some amount of instability when walking. You may also see significant swelling, bruising, and inflammation.