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Podiatrists stand up for sporty feet

Feet for Life month 2017 - Podiatrists stand up for sporty feet

Press release - 31st May 2016

June is the annual “Feet for Life” month organised by the College of Podiatry – and this year, the theme is Sporty Feet. With both the Euros and the Rio Olympics on the horizon, the College of Podiatry is highlighting the role of Northern Ireland’s podiatrists in keeping  top professional and amateur sportsmen and women at their physical peak.

From complex biomechanics to gait analysis and running analysis, the podiatrist’s skills, expertise and knowledge is sought after by Northern Ireland’s high performance sports professionals.

Many of Northern Ireland’s top podiatrists work closely with footballers, runners, rugby players, GAA teams and athletes to keep them on their feet and in the game. The College of Podiatry is keen that anyone and everyone with an interest in sport at whatever level becomes more aware of their feet and lower limbs during Feet for Life month and beyond.

“The demand for podiatrists with expertise in the field of biomechanics, gait analysis and orthopaedics is increasing as sports professionals and top class amateurs are now becoming more aware of the capabilities of the profession and how we can help them prevent and overcome injuries,” explained podiatrist Caroline Spencer, an Orthopaedic Podiatrist who specialises in biomechanics and gait analysis. 

“Sports people will attend the clinic often in pain or with biomechanical issues which are impacting on their performance. At our clinic, we video the sports person running and walking, looking carefully at their whole alignment along with assessing their lower limb function, and then explain and educate them on their treatment. 

“You could describe this as the dynamic side of podiatry – along with other complex areas such as podiatric surgery.”

Caroline – who runs a private podiatry practice from her clinic in Loughbrickland, also holds an Orthopaedic Podiatrist Specialist role in the Southern Trust, working closely with physiotherapists, orthopaedic doctors, consultant radiologists and foot and ankle consultants which is also an important part in treating the sports person.

She has worked closely with various sports personalities – including Northern Ireland’s Paralympic gold medalist skier at the Sochi Winter Olympics, Kelly Gallagher, who is a visually impaired athlete.

“Kelly has a foot problem that is causing her pain and preventing her from skiing and training at the top of her performance ability. She was referred by her sports physician. We are working closely with Kelly to resolve her foot pain through orthotic therapy and get her back to peak health”.

Along with various high level Gaelic players, footballers and runners, Caroline has also helped Olympic hockey player Peter Carruth. 

Peter said “I’ve had problems with my feet for years and had previously led to me being ruled out of European and Asian competitions. I went to see Caroline after being diagnosed with tenosynovitis of the peroneal tendon sheaths and previous stress fracture injuries to the shin. This was caused by constant sharp turning at speed; as my foot would always roll in on itself. From the first assessment to this present day, the treatment which has included custom orthotics has been fantastic”.

Caroline explains that as a specialist orthopaedic podiatrist working with athletes and sports personalities, this is a very interesting side of the profession , she – like all podiatrists in Northern Ireland – feel however  that the public perception of the profession is still often misconceived.

“There are a lot of misconceptions about podiatry. It is a highly rewarding and at times exciting profession. The opportunities are endless and extensive. I studied podiatry in Belfast before going to Brighton to complete an honours degree. I then undertook post graduate studies at Stafford University in Biomechanics along with attending numerous post graduate courses in this area over the years before settling back in Northern Ireland.

“At our we have a high success rate in treating lower limb injuries and mechanical problems . Most referrals for sports podiatry come from consultants, sports physicians and physiotherapists,  as the work is usually multi-disciplinary involving team work between the different professions.

“For sports people, podiatrists will asses and treat anything from stress fractures of the foot and shin to heel pain, Achilles,  ankle problems and calf strain to knee, hip and lower back pain.

“We work not only with sports people but all types of patients  to help them understand their lower limb problem and advised treatments in order to get them mobile and pain-free in whatever capacity that may be for the individual – especially in the field of biomechanics and gait/running analysis. “

Caroline is just one of the many highly skilled and qualified podiatry professionals working with sports individuals and clubs across Northern Ireland. 

With the Euros in June, the Olympics in July and the summer season sports season ahead, the College of Podaitry is running Feet for Life month throughout June to encourage people of all  ages to take good care of their feet – regardless of their sport, their fitness levels or age.

Caroline Spencer is available for interview
07910 329703

Kerry Clarke works closely with the Ulster Rugby Team
07796 277779

Or for the North West, contact Elaine McLaughlin
07720 080464

For further information or media queries contact Julie Williams-Nash on 07813187301 or jwn@scpod.org

Photographs are attached or are available on request.

Note for Editors on Biomechanics for Sporty Feet:

To summarise biomechanics, human feet are comprised of 52 bones, 66 joints, 214 ligaments and 38 muscles and tendons, and a relatively small misalignment of that system may cause painful effects throughout the whole lower limb.

Men and women who enjoy sports, if they are a professional or an amateur, can suffer more foot-related sports injuries. Running increases the pressure on the foot by three or four times your body weight. The twisting, jumping and physical collisions common in many sports place even greater stresses on the feet and biomechanical system. The cause of many sports injuries is a gradual or sudden change to the body’s biomechanics.

The problem is that the human foot was originally ‘designed’ to travel on soft, natural surfaces like earth and sand. Unfortunately, instead of soft earth, we now spend every day walking and standing on unnatural hard, flat surfaces like pavements and floors. These surfaces force our feet to roll over to gain ground contact and our arches to flatten. Rolling over of the foot or ‘Excessive Pronation’ is believed to affect over 50% of the population.

Interestingly, although the foot rolls inwards, often the shoe will wear excessively on the outside edge of the heel. This is because the foot normally ‘lands’ on the outside edge first and consequently rolls over causing excess pronation as a compensatory motion.

Just like the tyres on a car, poor alignment of the feet can cause wear and tear to other parts of the body. ‘Excessive Pronation’ often disrupts normal knee function and hip alignment and increases forces on the muscles in the lower back. Subsequently, ‘Excessive Pronation’ can cause a wide range of common complaints including knee pain and lower back pain.

The solution to this can often be an orthotic (custom-made shoe insert) for each individual to re-align the feet and ankles to their natural position and to correct body posture. In turn, the orthotics provides natural, lasting relief and comfort from many aches and pains.