BRINGING SCIENCE TO TREATMENT

Spotting zebras

Sports injuries are pretty predictable. Pitchers injure their shoulders, soccer players tear structures in their knees, and runners pull their hamstrings.  Sure, the circumstances change and each athlete comes with an established set of habits, strengths, weakness, and movement patterns. By and large, there’s not much variability, until the day a zebra walks into your clinic.

Unless you live in Africa or in a zoo, seeing a zebra is a rare occurrence. Spotting a real zebra in your clinic or on your playing field might give you a fright. However, there are some injuries in sports medicine that are just as uncommon as zebra sightings. Physiotherapist Chris Mallac has been in the game long enough to see a few sports injury zebras. We draw on his experience to launch our ‘uncommon injuries’ series. Each month Mallac highlights a topic that seems obscure but might actually be a sports injury impacting an athlete’s performance.

Today’s feature article looks at sural nerve injuries. The sural nerve is a sensory nerve that courses down the lateral side of the foot (see figure 1). Any athlete who suffers trauma to the lateral ankle, via an ankle sprain or fibular fracture, or compression from a tight ski or hiking boot, may compromise their sural nerve. While not a motor nerve, if injured, sensory and proprioceptive function can be compromised. Additionally, any resulting neuropathic pain may decrease athletic performance.

Explore Mallac’s previous writings on other unusual injuries such as Baxter nerve injuries and Baker’s cysts. Watch out for the carpal tunnel pretender, the pronator teres injury, and the Buford complex in shoulder injuries. Keep an eye out for next month’s topic: meniscal root tears.

Have you spotted any sports injury zebras? Let us know! We might feature your topic in an upcoming article.

Figure 1: Sural nerve anatomy


 

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