The Role of Podiatry in Sports

Podiatrists work with athletes to prevent sports injuries to the foot and ankle. High school athletes often experience ankle sprains and fractures, but taking precautions can help reduce the risk of injury.

Sports podiatrists often work closely with a team’s medical staff, including physical therapists and athletic trainers. They also provide pre-participation screenings and examinations.

Preventing Injuries

In addition to treating injuries, sports podiatrists focus on preventing them. They assess an athlete’s foot and ankle biomechanics, gait patterns and footwear choices to identify areas of weakness that may lead to injury.

They then work closely with the athlete to develop tailored exercise routines that address those weaknesses. This approach helps prevent future injuries and enhances performance.

Professionals who specialize in sports medicine, like the podiatrists at podiatry toowoomba, have a broad scope of practice, from writing prescriptions for non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications and setting fractures to performing cutting-edge micro-invasive surgical techniques that solve problems other surgeons can’t.

Many of our panelists find that the most challenging aspect of working with professional sports teams is dealing with time constraints and travel schedules. But they also all agree that building relationships, whether with other health professionals or team staff, is one of the most rewarding aspects of their job. Howard Osterman, who serves as a team podiatrist for the Washington Wizards and consults for WNBA, DC United and other elite club sports, concurs.

Treatment of Injuries

Podiatrists are expertly trained in treating a range of foot and lower leg injuries, which are often associated with sports. They may prescribe RICE (rest, ice application, compression and elevation), splints or use injectable medications to treat pain and inflammation. They are also skilled at taking X-rays to diagnose and determine the cause of injury.

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Most podiatrists who work with professional athletes find the position very rewarding. They have a variety of responsibilities that include pre-game strapping, taping and lower extremity physical medicine; in-game injury triage and treatment; and teaching post-game recovery techniques.

They also perform minor surgical procedures such as partial and complete nail avulsions, cryotherapy and phenol and alcohol procedures. They cite the diversity of their role as one of the reasons they chose to work with elite teams.

They also enjoy the interprofessional aspect of working alongside team physicians, physiotherapists and athletic trainers. This enables them to deliver comprehensive care and ensures the best results for their patients.

Post-Injury Care

Podiatrists who work with professional sports teams often have a wide range of roles, from pre-game strapping and taping to in-game injury triage, treatment and education. They also consult on lower extremity biomechanics and provide education on foot and ankle health.

Physiotherapy experts diagnose and treat common injuries with conservative measures such as RICE (rest, ice application, compression and elevation), splinting, injection therapy, acupuncture and physical therapy. In addition, they can order and interpret diagnostic tests including X-rays and laboratory studies.

Our panelists agree that hard work, a love of sports and a willingness to volunteer in some capacity can be the keys to landing a job working with professional sports teams. For example, Dr. Carter, who works with the WNBA’s Washington Mystics, credits her early volunteering at a local marathon as contributing to her current role. She says that while she’s proud of her patients’ achievements, witnessing career-ending injuries is one of the toughest aspects of this work.

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Rehabilitation

In the case of a fractured bone or sprain, podiatrists work with other professionals to help patients recover. This can include physical therapists, athletic trainers and nutritionists. “It’s very rewarding working in tandem with these interprofessional team members to help get athletes back on the field,” says Dr. Liebeskind.

Podiatrists also assess and treat conditions related to the lower leg and ankle, including bunions, hammertoes, plantar fasciitis and nerve compression. They can also prescribe orthotics to influence or alter lower limb/foot function for purposes of injury prevention and to enhance performance.

Once podiatrists complete their undergraduate degree, which varies between 3-4 years, they go through a 3-year residency program where they learn to use their skills in the hospital and gain surgical experience with a foot and ankle surgeon. Upon completion, podiatrists can perform surgery on the feet and ankles and provide health insurance rebates. In addition, they can also diagnose problems of the skin and nails, including corns, calluses and ingrown toenails.