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Plantar fasciitis takes out some big-name athletes

Pain areas associated with Plantar Fascitis.

Pain areas associated with plantar fasciitis. Click image to enlarge.

Plantar fasciitis is a common sports medicine injury that has recently taken out some big-name athletes. It’s extremely painful and can take years for athletes to recover from it.

Today, I had the chance to speak with WAKR host Ray Horner about these athletes and their plantar fasciitis.

We discussed the details of this painful injury and some of the treatments we employ to help relieve them. In some instances, however, the body will eventually heal itself.

Below is an audio file and transcript of our discussion.

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Dr. Joe Congeni

Dr. Joe Congeni

HORNER: With us live right now is Dr. Joe Congeni, Sports Medicine Center at Akron Children’s Hospital. Joe, what do you have for us this morning?

DR. CONGENI: Ray, I got a quick and short sports medicine quiz; just a question for you. You’re so good on current events and you know what’s going on with things.

There’s a real common injury that we see a lot in sports medicine, but it’s really affecting a lot of high-profile athletes. These athletes that have been taken out of their sport include:

  • Albert Pujols (first baseman, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim)
  • Evan Longoria in baseball (third baseman, Tampa Bay Rays)
  • Antonio Gates from Kent State football (tight end, San Diego Chargers)
  • Pau Gasol (Los Angeles Lakers)
  • Joakim Noah in NBA basketball (Chicago Bulls)

… to name just a few. [They] have missed significant time. You know with Pujols, man, they’re paying him $212 million to sit on the bench with this injury. Do you know what common sports injury those people have in common?

HORNER: Plantar’s fascia or something?

DR. CONGENI: Very good. Man, you’re unbelievable, Ray. You really are great.

HORNER: Yeah, I am. No, I’m just kidding.

DR. CONGENI: Plantar’s fasciitis. Really good. I think that’s a tough question, and a lot of people don’t know exactly what it is.

To paraphrase it, he said, plantar fasciitis stinks. It’s like you have needles underneath your feet whenever you’re playing.

There was an article I was reading recently that just talked about some of the quotes, like Joakim Noah, in the play-offs last year. To paraphrase it, he said, plantar fasciitis stinks. It’s like you have needles underneath your feet whenever you’re playing.

Albert Pujols said, you almost want to pee in your bed, rather than go to the bathroom because the first thing in the morning it’s so painful.

HORNER: Ohhh.

DR. CONGENI: Antonio Gates said, it’s like somebody’s sticking an ice pick in your foot when you try to get up first thing in the morning.

These guys have missed a significant amount of time. Pujols has missed a good part of this year with plantar’s fasciitis. It’s common in all athletes. It’s one thing we can share with them. Of all adults and, in particular, athletes and runners like you, 30 to 35 percent of people will get plantar fasciitis.

What happens is the plantar fascia is a shock absorbing arch band on the bottom of your foot. It’s kinda like a mini trampoline and it absorbs shock as you walk around during the day, but also as you run and play sports and other things. What happens, in athletes, and the more you play, obviously, the more you run, the more it occurs, there are these micro tears. And that nice tendon band — arch band — becomes scar tissue and stiff and it doesn’t absorb shock anymore. It’s extremely painful.

We do treatments like injections, or physical therapy, or deep tissue massage or orthotics in the shoes. People tell you to wear certain footwear, but the fact is it can take out big-name athletes like that and it can take out weekend warriors like us. It’s really a frustrating and difficult sports medicine issue.

HORNER: What is the treatment?

DR. CONGENI: Well, you know, that’s what I was saying. Whenever there are so many treatments like I just went through, that means that none of them work all the time.

So, to begin with, we just talk about stretching, you know and stuff like that. Then later on massaging, or [we say], hey, wear different shoes and change your running shoes. Get orthotics, injections of cortisone and things like that. But many times, and for somebody like Pujols, it may not work.

The newest treatments are [where] they inject this blood-based thing called PRP, sometimes. Some of the big-name athletes, professionals, get that, but these things can bother athletes, Ray, for years.

HORNER: Wow, alright. So, I mean once you get it, you have it?

DR. CONGENI: Once you get it, because it’s a scar-tissue thing, you do have it for a long time. It’s hard to get rid of. However, the one good thing is — like a lot of these other overload injury to tendons — there can be new blood flow back in the area.

What happens is when there’s all this scar tissue, you lose the blood flow. The blood flow can regenerate itself, but it takes, many times, a year, two years. Pujols wants to sit out all the way ‘til next spring training to see if his begins to improve.

HORNER: Alright, Joe, great stuff this morning. We’re gonna see you tomorrow night as part of our Pigskin Preview. You’re gonna have some safety measures, rule changes for safety for high-school football to share with us. We look forward to seeing you down on the football field.

DR. CONGENI: Thanks a lot, Ray. Looking forward to seeing you tomorrow.

HORNER: Dr. Joe Congeni, Sports Medicine Center at Children’s Hospital, joining us this morning on 1590, WAKR.

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About Dr. Joe Congeni - Director of Sports Medicine

Dr. Joe Congeni is the Director, Sports Medicine; Clinical Co-Director, Center for Orthopedics and Sports Medicine at Akron Children's Hospital. For the past 25 years, Dr. Congeni has been the “go to” source for national and local media looking for information about pediatric sports medicine.

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