Someone once said that officiating provides the best seat in the house. The only downside is that you have to stand. With all of the standing and running that are part of the job, foot problems are not uncommon. One of those ailments is plantar fasciitis.
Plantar fasciitis is an inflammation of the plantar fascia, a thick ligament on the bottom of the foot. Symptoms usually include pain in the heel where the arch meets the heel. More often than not there is no swelling, redness, discoloration or bruising. It is usually a chronic condition that gets progressively worse over time.
A hallmark symptom of the problem is pain when first getting out of bed in the morning. Sometimes it is painful for the first few steps after arising from a sitting position. In the early stages, the initial pain improves for a while and then begins to get worse as weight-bearing or physical activity continues through the day.
A typical scenario might be soreness in the heel prior to the game. The foot improves after warming up only to become acutely painful after a halftime break or after a lengthy post-game review, when you have been sitting for a while.
Long-standing plantar fasciitis can lead to what is commonly known as a heel spur. It is a very common problem among sports officials. The first-line treatment is RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation).
Cutting back on the number of games you officiate each week will help, as will reducing the intensity of the workouts you may be doing on your off days. Ice is a good postgame treatment. Rolling your feet over a bottle filled with frozen water will not only reduce inflammation, but it will help to stretch the plantar fascia as well. Elevating the foot will help reduce swelling.
When you are working a game, supportive shoes and socks or an elastic foot or ankle wrap can help. An athletic trainer or physical therapist can apply tape to give added support to your arch and plantar fascia. Anti-inflammatory medicine like ibuprofen or naproxen taken the morning of the game as well as after the game is particularly helpful, if you are able to take that type of medicine. Arch supports or over-the-counter orthotics or shoe inserts can help with plantar fasciitis pain.
If those self-treatments don’t provide relief, make an appointment with a podiatrist or your health care provider for a definitive diagnosis. Other problems that can mimic plantar fasciitis require different treatments. Topical pain relieving gels and creams, prescription strength anti-inflammatory medicine, steroid injections and aggressive physical therapy (ultrasound, phonophoreisis and other modalities) by a licensed provider can help.
In many cases custom-made shoe inserts, commonly called orthotics, are required to alleviate the pain. Orthotics also help to prevent the recurrence of the pain once the condition has been successfully treated. Some victims of plantar fasciitis may benefit from prescription splints that can be worn at night to stretch the plantar fascia.
No one single treatment will work for everyone. If foot pain keeps you from performing at your best, get it checked out by a professional, preferably one who is familiar with foot injuries or sports conditions, because it is usually easily treated. Don’t let plantar fasciitis keep you out of the game.
Note: This article is archival in nature. Rules, interpretations, mechanics, philosophies and other information may or may not be correct for the current year.
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