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Foot & Ankle

The foot is a walking example of “big things come in small packages.” It might seem small, but the foot is actually made up of 26 bones, 33 joints, and more than 100 muscles, ligaments, and tendons.

With all of these parts—and the fact that feet often carry a person’s entire body weight every day—it’s easy for feet and ankles to become stressed. And that can lead to a variety of injuries.

In addition to injuries, there are several foot and ankle conditions that are congenital, meaning a child is born with it.

Types

Injuries, like fractures (breaks) or sprains, are common in young children—especially if they’re physically active or play sports. In children, ankles are the most commonly sprained joint.

Others are medical conditions that are not caused by an injury. These may include:

  • Flexible flatfoot: The child doesn’t develop an arch in her foot, or its development is delayed.
  • High arches: The child’s foot has an arch that’s higher than normal. The foot can’t absorb shock as well as it should, making the child more likely to have an overuse injury (an injury that happens after repeated stress in the same spot, such as a stress fracture).
  • Tarsal coalition: Two or more of the bones in the foot are connected abnormally. Even though a child can be born with this, she may not develop any symptoms until she’s in her pre-teen or teenage years.  
  • Metatarsus adductus: This is a foot deformity where the bones in the front half of a child’s foot bend or turn in, pointing toward the body.

Symptoms

A child’s symptoms often depend on which type of foot or ankle condition she has. However, there are a few symptoms that tend to be across-the-board signs of a problem with the foot or ankle.

These symptoms may include:

  • Swelling or bruising
  • Severe and immediate pain
  • Inability to put weight on a foot or ankle
  • Deformity, especially if the foot or ankle has been both dislocated and fractured (broken)
  • Tenderness/sensitivity to touch

Causes

Foot and ankle injuries like sprains or fractures often occur when a child injures herself playing a sport. However, any motion that twists or moves the foot or ankle in an abnormal way (e.g., falling, stepping on an uneven surface) can lead to injuries.

With congenital conditions, it’s a little trickier to know the exact cause—some are hereditary (passed down throughout the family), some are the result of a mutated (changed) gene, and some have no known cause at all.

Diagnosis

A physical exam may be enough to show the physician that there’s a problem. However, he will probably need to perform imaging tests, like X-rays or computed tomography (CT) scans, to get the exact diagnosis.

Prevention

Injuries like sprains and fractures can often be prevented with simple safety measures. Before a child participates in a physical activity like a sport, make sure that she has:

  • Proper footwear. Shoes that fit well and are appropriate for the sport (e.g., cleats for soccer) can reduce the risk of injury.
  • Plenty of water. Staying hydrated will help her stay energized and on her feet.
  • Warm-up and cool-down routines. Light stretching before activity can improve balance and flexibility. Low-impact cardio (e.g., jogging) and light stretching after activity can loosen muscles that may have tightened during play.

 

If a child has been injured, she can prevent re-injury by waiting until she is fully healed—and gets the “all clear” from her physician—to get back in the game.   

The OIC Foot & Ankle Team

If your child or family member is referred to OIC’s for foot and/or ankle disorders, you can expect your team to consist of the following:


The Pediatric Orthopaedist specializes in the musculoskeletal system of children. They manage the problems associated with spasticity and provide surgical interventions when necessary such as tendon lengthening or correcting a bony deformity.

The Pediatrician reviews medical issues and coordinates the general healthcare of the patient, in addition to working with the orthopaedic surgeon for pre-operative assessments if surgery is indicated and overseeing medical issues for hospitalized patients.

The Physical Therapist is a health care professional trained to assess and treat movement and function. They examine muscle range of motion, spasticity, strength and posture and assess their impact on function and mobility. Our physical therapists communicate with community therapists to help design and implement treatment interventions and equipment such as wheelchairs and braces. Gait studies at the Kameron Gait and Motion Analysis Laboratory are conducted by physical therapists.

The Nurse Specialist assists in making sure all medical orders are carried out, and provides case management and nursing assessment for the patient.