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The perils of playing on with a foot injury
One of the most painful moments on a football field has to be that situation where you strike the bottom of your opponent's boot and the top of your foot impacts directly with their studs.
It can be as equally painful as the damage lasting with the problem being there is very little, if any, soft muscle to protect the top of your foot or to act as a cushion.
You might have heard it said that sometimes it's better to break a bone than to damage it or even the ligaments around it? Well, in the case of the length of time it takes to recover, sometimes this can be true.
And in this case where your bone is bruised, it can take a lot longer than you think to recover enough to return to activity.
The reason is that when you break a bone in your foot your body responds very quickly to help you heal as fast as possible because it recognises that there is a serious problem.
When you have just bruised the bone, it's painful, but not thought of as serious, so your body is in no drastic rush to heal it. So the pain and bruising linger for quite a while. Add into the mix the fact that you'll still be trying to walk on it, no doubt even trying to play on and continually breaking down, and there's just a couple of reasons why bone bruising of the foot can take weeks and even months to fully heal.
But the bone bruising problem can become sinister. Take for example Jack Wilshere, the Arsenal and England player this week very sensibly opted to have 2-3 weeks rest to allow the bruising and inflammation in his ankle settle. The last time he played through bone bruising in his ankle it developed into a stress fracture and he missed almost 17 months of his career.
Now this is a pretty extreme example. But it shows how it can be a problem if it happens to you or one of your players. When the bone is bruised, it's weak. If it's weak, it is susceptible to injury and at the speed at which football is played these days the bones can very innocuously crack and develop something as simple as a stress fracture, a tiny little crack in the bone, which can take months to heal.
It's not uncommon for such a fracture to develop from running for too long on hard surfaces too, so if you're planning a summer filled with five milers, be careful not to over do it, these things have a habit of developing particularly if you're not wearing the right foot wear.
And the real problem with stress fractures is that they aren't always picked up on a standard X-ray, so the doctor gives you the thumbs up that it's safe to play and that it's just 'bruised' but the pain and weakness remain.
And if you're playing on with a foot that's got a slight crack in it, all the while pushing through the pain barrier, who knows what long term damage you're doing. You also run the risk of injuries and problems with the opposite ankle. It makes sense that if your foot isn't working properly to do its job, then your other ankle is going to have to work harder to help you run, twist and turn. Any wonder then that Wilshere is suffering from a problem with the other ankle to the one that kept him sidelined for 17 months?
My advice to you if you suffer from this type of foot injury, or bone bruising, is to apply the RICE theory. Ice is so important to try to stop the bruising, or at the very least reduce it, and to rest. Sometimes, because blood flow and adrenaline are in your favor, you're able to complete the game following the impact, but then the next day when those two have reduced, you're in agony.
And don't be surprised to find when you get out of bed the next morning that you can barely stand up. You need to rest it and respect it. It might be a bruise at the minute, but as in the case with Wilshire, rushing back to play to soon can have serious long-term consequences on your future career in sport.