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Golf Has Foot Faults Also

The follow-through can lead to a serious toe problem

SATURDAY, June 9, 2001 (HealthDayNews) -- If you golf, you should be aware of potentially serious foot problems that can give you an unexpected handicap.

Those countless swings you take can lead to a condition called hallux limitus, which is a jamming and deterioration of the big toe joint that limits its motion.

When golfers follow through on their swing, they can overextend the big toe joint on their back foot. After years of playing golf, that can eventually wear out the cartilage or jam the big toe joint.

"It's something that occurs over time, so it's going to be more common in the plus-30-to-50 age group than it is in younger people," says Dr. Daniel Hatch, a podiatric surgeon at the Foot and Ankle Center of Northern Colorado.

The right foot is affected in right-handers, while it's the other way around for left-handers.

Previous trauma to the big toe area and bone structure are other factors that contribute to hallux limitus.

The condition can make it difficult to continue playing golf.

"During the mechanics of the swing, they're unable to fully finish the follow-through," Hatch says. "If you can't finish the follow-through, then not only is it painful, but it certainly affects the outcome of the flight of the ball and where you want it to go."

Hallux limitus can be so painful that it affects walking. That means a golfer with the condition will probably be forced to use a golf cart and miss out on the exercise benefits of walking the course.

If you're a golfer with pain, swelling or lack of mobility in your big toe, Hatch says you should have it evaluated. Treatment options include stiffer-soled shoes or orthotic devices that can decrease stress in the big toe joint. Advanced cases of hallux limitus may require surgery to remodel the joint or even replace it.

Another common foot problem for golfers is a neuroma, or pinched nerve, at the bottom of the foot. It typically occurs between the third and fourth toes. It's caused by the repeated weight transfer to the front foot that takes place in the follow-through.

"It can be quite painful when walking and also during the mechanics of the swing. Typically, a person will feel a sharp, shooting, radiating pain in their toes," Hatch says.

Another issue for golfers is the location of the spikes on their shoes. Try not to have a spike located directly beneath the ball of the foot. The pressure from that spike adds up over the thousands of steps taken during an average round of golf and can cause intense pain and swelling in the ball of the foot.

You can avoid that problem by removing any spikes located under the ball of your foot.

Golf shoes themselves are important, too, says Dr. Richard Bouché, a podiatric foot and ankle surgeon and director of the sports medicine clinic at the Virginia Mason Sports Medicine Center, in Seattle.

"What we stress in golf is good fit, and the features of the shoe you want are to allow good traction and good stability and reasonable cushion and support," Bouché says.

"A sport like golf, you're on uneven terrain, so you need to have good traction. You want a stable shoe that offers you reasonable support and cushion," Bouché says.

What To Do

For more HealthDay stories on golf, click here.

For more information about foot care, go to the American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons, or the American Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Society.

If you're interested in seeing what clinical trials are available on chronic pain, take a look at Veritas Medicine.

SOURCES: Interviews with Daniel Hatch, D.P.M., Foot and Ankle Center of Northern Colorado, Greeley, Calif.; Richard Bouché, D.P.M., director, sports medicine clinic, The Virginia Mason Sports Medicine Center, Seattle
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