Plantar Fasciitis in Competitive Sports
With AFL preseason around the corner, I just wanted to talk about plantar fasciitis and how it can impact players in team sports. Plantar fasciitis can have the potential to impact a player’s season greatly, an example of recent being Melbourne Demons player Jack Viney missing multiple weeks throughout his career with this injury.
You can injure your plantar fascia in all kinds of sports such as AFL, rugby, tennis, netball, soccer and hockey, where training loads can be quite intense.
Plantar fasciitis can be caused by a sudden increase in training levels, with people who spend a lot of time on their feet outside of training being at a higher risk. If left untreated it can become debilitating, hindering your ability to run, jump, change direction and play out an entire game without pain.
Plantar fasciitis is commonly presented in players as sharp pain localised underneath the heel often with accompanying tight calf muscles. What’s happening is the plantar fascia, a fibrous tissue underneath the foot that helps maintain your arches, has become inflamed and thickened.
Plantar fasciitis can be an extremely difficult injury to rehabilitate during a sporting season due to the location being extremely hard to offload.
How is plantar fasciitis diagnosed?
Plantar fasciitis can often easily be diagnosed by podiatrists using our clinical knowledge to gain subjective and objective information, as well as using palpation techniques and gait assessment.
Ultrasounds and MRI’s are sometimes used to confirm our diagnosis, and are able to detect possible tears in the tissue.
How to avoid developing plantar fasciitis
When returning to training it’s important to avoid intense training overloads, especially if you’ve had a prolonged period of inactivity. Gradually building up training load and warming up your lower leg muscles prior to training will put you in good stead to avoid developing plantar fasciitis.
If a training session involves large amounts of running drills it would be beneficial to wear your runners for a greater amount of support as your feet and legs adapt to these intensities.
If you’re a regular at your local gym or have some weights at home, it could be beneficial to build up some calf strength by doing weighted calf raises. Having strong calf muscles is a strong preventative measure for reducing injuries such as plantar fasciitis.
Treating plantar fasciitis
I’m sure you’ve all heard about ex-Saints player Robert Harvey’s plantar fasciitis, and how he jumped off a coffee table to snap his plantar fascia. We strongly advise against following suit and trying these methods:
- Calf and foot stretching/strengthening
- Shockwave therapy
- Wearing supportive footwear
- Custom Foot Orthoses specifically designed to fit inside football boots
Can I keep playing with plantar fasciitis?
While it may be beneficial to have some time off sports to recover, it is possible to keep playing if an adequate management plan is in place. Management plans often involve sufficient offloading (whether that be through custom foot orthoses, strapping your feet in game and wearing the right footwear), a strength and rehabilitation program as well as dry needling/shockwave therapy.