Foot Injuries in Grappling

Grapplers are a tough bunch, and generally tend to ignore injuries unless broken bones are actually protruding from a wound. I want to temper this tendency by using the Grapplearts pulpit to discuss a very serious category of orthopedic injury: strains and sprains of the lowly foot.

About 5 years ago in Judo I tried to take down a large opponent and got caught in an awkward position. There was an audible ‘pop’ and I collapsed in pain, holding my foot; it felt like someone had driven a spike right through it. Regular X-Rays at the local ER didn’t show anything, and over several days the pain gradually decreased, all of which seemed like good news.

An extensive google search got me worried though: it seemed that there were certain types of foot injuries that were often misdiagnosed and went through a brief period of ‘improvement’ before getting much, much worse. There were references to fusing bones and foot amputation. Therefore, despite the assurances of the ER doctors, I pulled some strings to see my sports medicine doctor, and things started to happen.

Within the hour I had new X-Rays, weight-bearing X-Rays this time. Later that day I was in the office of a foot surgeon. One week later I was in the operating theatre and under the knife. 9 weeks later I returned to work and (light) training.

It turned out that I had suffered something called a Lisfranc injury, where certain important ligaments are torn. The foot looks and feels OK at first, but every time that foot bears weight it pancakes out to the side, there being no ligaments to hold it together. Things that shouldn’t rub or move end up rubbing and moving, and before long a crippling form of arthritis sets in. Caught early – one to two weeks after injury – the prognosis is good. Untreated this injury rarely ever heals well.

So the take-home message is that if your foot ever goes ‘pop’ you have no choice: go see a specialist. All foot injuries are serious until proven otherwise, and most serious foot injuries are also time sensitive: early diagnosis and treatment might just save your grappling career. Hell, it might save your walking career!

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