The winter season is here again, and for athletes, it can be a dangerous time. It’s been reported that in the winter, emergency rooms report a patient increase of up to 500 percent. What’s more, many of these extra cases are athletes with major foot and ankle injuries. In cold weather, the muscles, ligaments, and tendons become stiffer and less flexible, and there’s not as much blood flow to the extremities. Furthermore, the cold can have a numbing effect, masking the warnings of discomfort until a serious injury occurs.

Naturally, these issues can lead to a significantly increased risk of foot and ankle sports injuries. The most common of these are ankle sprains, fracture or broken metatarsal bones and plantar fasciitis, and they’re most often seen in sports that involve running, jumping or impacts to the feet. These sports typically include:

  • Football and soccer
  • Running
  • Gymnastics
  • Basketball
  • Baseball
  • Ice skating
  • Skiing
  • Snowboarding
  • Sprains

Ankle sprains are by far the most common winter sports injury. Symptoms usually involve stiffness, swelling, weakness and tenderness in the ankle, and pain when weight or pressure are applied. In most cases, a sprained ankle will resolve on its own, although light physical therapy can be used to accelerate healing and improve stability and strength.

Plantar Fasciitis

This is caused by muscle contractions in the foot, which results in pain in the sole and heel. Treatment usually involves specialized footwear and physical therapy.

Fracture Ankle Bones

Fracture anklebones in the foot are common in football, and many professional players have suffered fractures of the metatarsi. Depending on the severity of the injury, surgery is required to fix the bones, followed by physical therapy to restore full use of the foot.