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Foot and Ankle injuries in the NFL

Pre-season football is beginning and once again foot and ankle injuries are in the NFL news. The number of injuries, sprains, fractures, Achilles tendon tears and various game-changing foot and ankle problems continue to plague professional football. And, while advances in the design of shoes and cleats have led to claims of better performance, it’s clear that shoe design alone isn't enough in reducing foot and ankle injury rates.

Even under the best of circumstances, the repetitive stress and forces acting on the foot and ankle during practice and on the playing field are often too high to survive a misstep. The anatomical complexity of the foot and ankle when subjected to the physicality and explosive speed and power of bigger, stronger and faster players can create career-ending injuries and team set backs. Controlling the increasing number of foot and ankle injuries in the NFL means focusing on the systemic factors that caused the injury as well as the treatment and rehabilitation of the injury itself. Current management of traumatic and chronic injuries of the foot and ankle continues to evolve

while research in sports medicine and science provides data and guidelines for improved player safety, equipment design and field conditions.

However recurrence rates for foot and ankle injuries still tend to be high. The Journal of Sports Rehabilitation identified a series of possible contributory factors for first time ankle injuries and re-injuries, including history of previous problems, weight, height, joint laxity, functional instability and balance. There are also numerous extrinsic factors that influence the risk of injury including the surface on which the sport is played and the general environment with developing evidence that suggests fatigue is a key extrinsic risk factor.

Player health and safety has been a top priority for the NFL as the league continues to champion new developments that better prevent injuries with advance progress in the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of head injuries. The same efforts can lead to a more proactive approach to identify at risk players with a game plan to minimize and control foot and ankle injuries.

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