Bunions have a bit of a reputation as something that “old ladies” get. But that’s a huge oversimplification. In fact, men and women of all ages and activity levels can develop bunions on one or both feet.
In fact, the wear and tear of athletic activity can actually cause a bunion to develop earlier or more quickly—especially if your footwear choices are less than ideal. Even all-pro NFLers sometimes develop them during their playing careers—Julio Jones being a notable recent example.
And of course, bunions themselves can present a major obstacle for active people. They can cause significant pain on the field, limit your mobility, and even prevent you from fitting into your cleats or sneakers.
Fortunately, we can help.
What Is a Bunion?
A bunion is complex structural deformity the affects the foot around the base of the biggest toe.
Essentially, that joint (known as the metatarsal phalangeal joint, or MTP) becomes unstable and shifts out of alignment. The toe itself starts to push toward, against, and sometimes even over the neighboring toe. Meanwhile, an enlarged, bony bump forms along the inside of the foot at the base of the toe.
In addition to the unsightliness of the bump itself, bunions are associated with pain, swelling, restricted motion of the toe, and inability to wear normal shoes comfortably. Corns and calluses can also form where the misaligned structures rub against the inside of footwear.
For an athlete, the downsides are obvious. You may lose the ability to play to your full potential, or play without pain … or play at all.
What Causes Bunions?
Bunions do not have a single cause, but may be instigated or worsened by a complex combination of factors. These may include:
Genetics. The foot structure you were born with may place excess force on the MTP joint. If so, you may simply be genetically predisposed to developing bunions. It is well known that bunions do tend to run in families.
Foot injuries. Both traumatic and chronic injuries affected the front of the foot may increase the risk of bunion development later in life.
Footwear. It’s not clear whether poor shoe choice can cause a bunion if you aren’t already genetically predisposed to getting one. However, they can certainly irritate an existing bunion and accelerate the progression.
How Are Bunions Treated?
Bunions, unfortunately, do not get better on their own. They are a progressive condition, which essentially means that they only get worse with time—and can only be truly fixed via surgery.
Nonetheless, there are a couple of broad options when it comes to treatment:
Conservative. Mild bunions can sometimes be managed with non-invasive treatments. The goal, always, is to make sure you can enjoy all your physical activities without being limited by pain or disability. If we can do this using measures such as custom orthotics, modified gear, or other conservative treatments, we can certainly recommend this route as an option.
Surgical. Severe bunions that don’t respond to conservative treatment will need to be surgically corrected. Athletes may also select surgery for mild-to-moderate bunions if they are having trouble performing certain activities comfortably.
If a bunion is developing, it’ll get in the way of your game sooner or later. The best call is to address it early, rather than wait for it to start affecting your daily life.
No matter what stage your bunion is in, contact the Colorado Center for Podiatric Sports Medicine today for aggressive, advanced, and effective treatment options. Just dial (720) 600-3380, or drop us a line online via our contact form.
1551 Professional Lane, Ste. 160
Longmont, CO 80501