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Foot Surgery for Athletes, Children, and People With Other Health Problems

Topic Overview

Athletes

Foot surgery generally is not advised for athletes (anyone participating in sports or fitness activities) who can still comfortably continue their sports. You may want to try nonsurgical treatments such as:

  • Taking pain relievers.
  • Stretching your shoes or wearing shoes that stretch.
  • Using pads, splints, or arch supports.
  • Using custom orthotics.
  • Switching to more comfortable shoes.
  • Changing activities.

But if pain begins to limit your activities, you may want to consider surgery.

  • You are likely to have some loss of function after surgery. Stiffness may persist in the affected joint after surgery, which may be more limiting than the pain of the original joint deformity. You probably will be able to resume activities, though possibly at a lesser level.
  • If you are a competitive athlete whose bunions or hammer toes interfere with your sport, surgical treatment may improve joint function enough to allow you to continue competing. Some athletes can postpone more significant surgery that would align and straighten the joint until after their competitive careers are over.

Children and teenagers

Some children begin developing bunions before the age of 10. Surgery may be appropriate for children and teens who have pain or limited activity that persists despite nonsurgical treatment. It is as important for youths as it is for adults that the surgeon has experience doing various types of bunion surgery on a regular basis and can choose a procedure that will best treat the child's specific type of bunion or toe deformity.

A pediatric specialist is trained to diagnose and treat the child's rapidly changing body, which is very different from the developed adult body. Some podiatrists and orthopedic surgeons specialize in children's foot deformities and surgery.

People with other health problems

If you have health problems such as diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, gout, neuromuscular disorders (such as muscular dystrophy), or circulatory problems that limit blood flow to your feet, discuss the risks of surgery with your health professional. These and other conditions increase the chance of complications after surgery.

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine
Gavin W.G. Chalmers, DPM - Podiatry and Podiatric Surgery
Last Revised February 24, 2012

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