Foot Injuries & the Olympics

foot injuries image
China’s Olympic hopeful, Liu Xiang, walked off the track before making it over a single hurdle. Liu said “I knew my foot would fail me. I felt painful when I was just jogging.” Xiang was referring to the back of his heel, where the Achilles tendon attaches to the heel bone. He had thought the injury had healed, only to have it recur a week prior to the event. His coach said that he has been dealing with the injury for six or seven years and described the condition as an inflamed bone spur.

Achilles tendon insertion imageA tremendous amount of force is exerted through the Achilles tendon as the calf muscle contracts to launch a runner from the starting blocks. This force and stress can cause small tears and inflammation to develop in the tendon as it inserts on the heel bone. A spur can develop over time, on the back of the heel, as a result of this traction force from the tendon. Chronic tendon problems can lead to degeneration (deterioration) of the tendon, resulting in chronic pain and weakness.

American marathon runner and Olympic medal hopeful, Deenaanatomy 3rd metatarsal fracture area Kastor, pulled out of the women’s marathon after running only three miles. “I felt a pop in my foot. I couldn’t stand on it,” Kastor said. “I didn’t expect to be finishing the marathon on a bus.” Her injury was described as a “clean break” of her 3rd metatarsal. She had felt pain in the same area, during training the prior week. This means she may have had a stress fracture which became a complete break during the event.

Yao Ming suffered a stress fracture in his foot that ended his NBA season and potentially jeopardized his chance to play for China in the Olympics. The stress fracture occurred in his navicular bone, and is not an injury that he can play with. Yao opted for surgery to treat the stress fracture and headed to China for traditional Chinese medical treatment. Yao healed in time to play in the Olympics and led China with 13 points in their loss to the US in the most watched basketball game in history.

The navicular is a tarsal bone between the bones in the ankle and the bones innavicular bone image the midfoot. The joints formed by the navicular are of great importance to normal foot function. The navicular is important in rearfoot and midfoot motion, midfoot and arch stability and support. An untreated stress fracture in the navicular could have disastrous long term results for an athlete.

midfoot imageCanadian Hurdler, Perdita Felicien, was forced to miss the Olympics because of a mid-foot sprain. Perdita Felicien had won the Gold medal in the 2003 World Championships and the Silver medal in the World Championships in 2007. She became a guest commentator for CBC’s Olympic coverage of hurdles.

Midfoot sprains are not as common as ankle sprains, but can be common in athletes and particularly runners. There are many ligaments in the midfoot area which hold the bones together and support the arch. A sprain is a partial or complete tear of a ligament and when this happens in the midfoot area, the foot becomes unstable. If left untreated, the result can be chronic instability of the midfoot and arch, arthritis and even permanent disability.

More information on foot anatomy.
More information on stress fractures.
More information on Achilles tendonitis.


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