Category Archives: Background Information

Break Your Bones, Not Your Soft Tissue

Inside the radiologist’s office, I learned way more about foot and ankle anatomy than I had ever wished to know.

A summary of the MRI results (I will spare you a verbatim report of the MRI findings, which read like the script of an M. Night Shyamalan film):

-complete tearing of 1 ligament and severe strains on another — anterior talofibular ligament (ATFL) and calcaneo-fibular ligament (some acronym I don’t know and am too lazy to google…likely CFL).

-burst joint capsules, widespread edema in the ankle and subtalar joints

-bone contusions — severe bruising of the talus (the main ankle bone) and calcaneus (heal bone)

In English:  while I did not have any clear breaks in bones (thank you, mom, for convincing me to take a daily calcium supplement), the internal structure of some key bones had been crushed.  My soft tissue was a mess.  A footwreck.

The radiologist’s departing words:  “Man, it’s too bad you didn’t just break something.  Bone heals much faster and more easily than soft tissue.”

Duly noted, Mr. Radiologist.  The next time I damage a body part, I’ll make sure to break bone before tearing ligaments, bursting joint capsules, or acquiring bone contusions.

~~

The flippant remark above stems from my knowledge that the radiologist was correct.  I live with a deep wish that I had just cracked the tibula, fibula, or both and left the other anatomy alone.  But pragmatism>unrealistic dreams…so rather than cursing the bone gods, I’ll ask the blog gods to help me in this effort to gather information about soft tissue damage (and intra-bone damage) to the ankle/subtalar region.

FOOT FOR THOUGHT

How can someone who has limited use of a foot (pain with weight-bearing and motion of the subtalar and ankle joints) and a strained upper back and shoulder (from being on crutches for about a year and overcompensating for lack of lower-body support), stay in aerobic shape?  

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When Two Feet Collide

If you’re feeling lazy, you can read the following sentence and skip the rest of this post:  1. always wear your joint braces;  2. in softball, there should be 2 first bases (1 for the runner and 1 for the fielder);  3. because I did not follow my own advice in #1 and others did not follow #2, I wrecked my right ankle.

I’ve been trying to find a way to relay what seems to be critical information for future blog posts — namely, what exactly happened to my ankle — without sounding melodramatic or self pitying.  In an attempt to de-dramatize what for me was indeed traumatic and life altering, I will stick to the facts.

August 2007:  I’m at bat in an intramural softball game.  I swing, make contact, and sprint to first base.  Unbeknownst to me, the inexperienced 1st-base woman has her entire foot on the bag.  I’m focusing on outrunning my pathetic hit, making up for mediocre batting with speed.  In an instant, my foot snaps over the 1st-base woman’s misplaced foot and I collapse.  An eversion sprain (the foot rolls outwards), followed by an inversion sprain (I try to catch myself and end up doing double the damage).  Forgetting I’m not wearing Swede-Os, I stand up, shake my foot, try to “walk it out,” and after 1 to 2 steps collapse on the field.

A few friendly men carry me off of the field and an EMT creates a makeshift splint.  At the ER an hour later, my foot and ankle are at least double their normal size.  According to my orthopedist during my visit the next day, my toes “look like little hot dogs.”  How delicious.

At the ER, I am x-rayed,  pumped with heavy-duty pain medicine, placed in a boot and crutches, and instructed not to weight bear at all.

~

My orthopedist thinks I have a 2nd-degree ankle sprain that should heal up within a few months.  He writes me several prescriptions for narcotics, joking that I can pay for my college books by selling some of the pills (yeah, he’s a cool orthopedist…one of few), and instructs me about icing and eventual weight bearing.

A week later across the country, a radiologist at an imaging center where I have just had an MRI runs into the parking lot and asks, ‘excuse me, are you the young lady who just had an MRI of the right foot?’  I think he knows the answer because my right foot has a solid boot on it and I’m hobbling to our minivan.

‘I’m the radiologist and I’ve read your scan.  Please, could you come into my office for a few minutes?’

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Brace Yourself

Sports have always been an important part of my life.  From toddling around the preschool playground to playing 7 years of competitive soccer, I learned how to cope with dislocated joints, bruises, cuts, and sand in the face (thank you, preschool).  In 3rd grade, I was diagnosed with osteochondritis dissecans of the right knee.  The doctors explained to me that, for some unknown reason, my knee was not receiving adequate blood supply and the bones comprising the joint were slowly dying.  I was ordered to cease physical activity (except for small bits of walking) for an undetermined amount of time.

My youthful cells rose to the occasion and healed my knee within the year. When I hit the soccer pitch, softball field, and basketball and volleyball courts, penalty kicks, fly balls, blocks, and kills were accompanied by exhilarating team camaraderie and less exhilarating bodily sprains — primarily of the ankle.

Hypermobility.  Joint laxity.  Flexible.

These are all promising modifiers when describing a geriatric patient.  But for an athlete, they can indicate problems.  Starting around age 11, I would not step foot on turf or court — practice or official match — unless wearing a sturdy brace on each ankle.  (Thank you, Swede-O, for 8 years of stabilization).

On August 22, 2007, I decided I could pack my Swede-O’s in one of several duffel bags imminently heading with me to my freshman year of college.  Did I need to wear braces for a casual, intramural softball game?  Couldn’t my loose joints withstand a few lateral shuffles to field balls and a couple of trips around the bases (ok — a couple of trips to first base, perhaps second)?

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First Steps

Friends, Family, Fellow Bloggers, and Foot Sufferers:

I have created this blog with the hope of gathering information about foot and ankle injuries.  Four and a half years of chronic foot pain and limited mobility following an acute sports injury in 2007 have erased any personal hopes of a panacea; however, I have confidence that others have knowledge about foot and ankle specialists, podiatrists, orthotists, other -ists,  creative ways of getting exercise and staying fit, stylish yet comfortable shoes, and non-medicinal pain management — among other things.

Please share your creative thoughts as they come to you.

As a social science major, my formal medical knowledge is limited.  But by stepping foot into numerous physicians’ offices and playing with various models of the human foot (apparently, naughty patients steal models that are made from real human bones), I have been steeped in footlandia.  I will write with the assumption that readers know nothing about that part of the body that carries so much weight and is the gateway to numerous daily-life activities.  I apologize to any orthopedists or foot savvy people, who might find my descriptions to be overly simplified or slightly inaccurate.

This injury-turned-disability is no joking matter.  My life has been changed.  But I find it essential to interject humor into such serious matters.

Thus, I hope to provide you with an informative account that tickles your curiosity and urges you to contribute to my efforts for an improved QOL.

The next post will provide specific background about the injury and its ramifications.  Power up your iPads and laptops and get ready for Foot Fail 101.

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