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All Too Common Country Club Injuries

How golf, tennis and squash are keeping elite foot doctors on their toes

For country clubbers who spend the summer months on a quest to rule the tennis court—or even those who are only there for the Arnold Palmer—healthy feet are vital. No one wants debilitating heel pain or a bad bunion to confine him or her to sipping poolside cocktails while the summer’s member-guest is going on.

As the Director and Founder of the Non-surgical Foot and Ankle Service at the Hospital for Special Surgery, Dr. Rock Positano is a foot expert. Unfortunately, he says that golf, tennis and squash are among the riskiest activities for the feet and ankles. Although every sport poses a risk of foot injury, “People don’t realize that more people injure their heel and their Achilles tendon golfing than they do sometimes running,” says Dr. Positano. “With golf, the foot is in constant contact with the ground and it’s a tremendous amount of force that goes through a foot when a person drives a golf ball, particularly through the Achilles.”

In tennis and other racquet sports like squash, pivoting on the front of the foot can cause numerous problems, including highly debilitating damage to the sesamoid bones under the big toe, capsulitis (an inflammation of the metatarsal heads) and other unpleasant issues. Despite this, thankfully, Dr. Positano doesn’t advise that people quit the stress-relieving summer sports they love.

The doc’s foot care philosophy has always been all about prevention. He is an advocate for making every attempt to correct problems without surgery, and a big part of that includes evaluating patients to determine whether they have a pathological foot type—meaning an excessively flat or high arch—which puts them at a higher risk of suffering a foot injury. By profiling a patient’s foot type, gait and range of motion, he creates highly customized shoe inserts that help with shock absorption and decrease the risk of injury.

Taking a preventative approach to foot care has become a rising trend, like going to the dentist or getting a blood test to check your cholesterol. For golfers and tennis players, this pre-emptive step is especially important before the warm weather hits. So if you want to make the most of your club membership, it’s worth adding a foot evaluation to your pre-Memorial Day to-do list.