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Keep your feet and legs safe this winter

Why do most ankle and foot injuries occur during the winter?

In locations where weather is particularly chilly during the winter, or in regions where roads often become slick with ice, rain, or snow, the likelihood of slipping and falling increases significantly. Winter sports are also more likely to cause leg, ankle, and foot sprains and fractures. In addition to injuries due to poor weather conditions, sports such as snowboarding, sledding, and ice skating are likely to result in injuries, especially if participants are not properly warmed up or conditioned to take part.

The dangers of ice

One of the most common causes of winter-related lower extremity injuries is ice. Even when wearing solid shoes with soles designed to provide traction, slips may occur. Slips on ice cause acceleration through the fall. In essence, there is little to no friction to slow down or halt a fall on slick surfaces. In addition, the foot and leg can move in unpredictable directions, since there is no texture to the surface to create friction and drive the motion in one direction. When slipping on ice, your leg may go forward, sideways, or behind you even if your body isn’t going in the same direction. This results in a much higher risk for a sprain, fracture, or both at the same time.

Stress fractures are common during winter

Although other kinds of fractures may occur during winter, stress fractures are by far the most common type of injury to the foot and leg bones during the chilly months. Stress fractures often begin as a very small, or hairline crack in the bone. These fractures are often so small that they aren’t visible on a standard x-ray, and can start out as seemingly minor, but when left untreated, may result in extensive or severe complications. Often, a stress fracture is mistaken for other types of injuries by patients, who try to treat the injury at home without relief.

Stress fracture symptoms typically include pain, swelling, redness, and occasional bruising over the injured area. They may be mistaken for simple bumps and bruises, sprains, or other minor injuries because there is no obvious deformity, and patients are still able to walk with the injury. However, a hallmark sign of many stress fractures is that the pain and discomfort often are fairly localized, and go away when you stop taking part in the activities related to the injury. Stress fractures also typically involve an intense ache that feels like it is deep inside the foot or leg.

What should you do if you suffer a winter foot or leg injury?

If you suffer from a fall or other injury this winter, and your symptoms don’t resolve after a day or two despite rest, ice, and elevating the injured foot or leg, schedule an appointment with your podiatrist for an evaluation. This is especially true if the symptoms seem to be worsening. However, if your injury involves an obvious deformity, extreme pain, an open wound, or other symptoms that simply cannot wait, you may need to take a trip to your local hospital’s emergency department and follow up with your podiatrist afterward. The sooner you seek treatment, the sooner you can begin recovery. Early, prompt treatment has also been shown to shorten recovery times in some patients, depending on the nature and severity of the injury.

For your winter-related foot, ankle, and lower leg concerns, call Kansas City Foot Specialists today at (913) 338-4440.