When baseball star Albert Pujols was suffering from plantar fasciitis during the 2013 season while still with the Los Angeles Angels, the strapping first baseman said he considered a severe morning routine change.
“You almost want to pee in your bed rather than go to the bathroom,” Pujols told USA TODAY Sports. “It’s really painful in the morning.”
Pujols is one of many athletes in recent years to have suffered from the injury. This week, Tiger Woods withdrew from the Hero World Challenge with the condition, saying it was difficult for him to walk.
And while there is a lack of data showing this is more common in professional sports, there is a lot of talk among athletes and the orthopedic medical community that there is more plantar fasciitis than there used to be among both pro athletes and so-called weekend warriors over the last decade.
Robert Klapper, the orthopedic consultant to the TV show “ER,” and the co-host of ESPN Radio’s Weekend Warriors, had a couple of theories about what he told USA TODAY Sports in 2013 was an “explosion of overuse injuries like plantar fasciitis.”
Klapper said he thinks that sports specialization at a young age is leading to a lack of natural cross-training and to a greater number of injuries caused by repetitive movements.
In earlier generations, a young three-sport star — say, football, basketball, baseball — was common. Now, young athletes who stand out in a sport tend to play it year-round on all-star or travel teams. And there is a lot more time spent inside on computers or watching TV. Now, the two-sport star — say, basketball and video games — is more common.
“Cross-training is so valuable, and it used to come quite naturally,” Klapper said. “We’ve lost that.”
Here’s a quick look at the condition, as well as some causes, prevention tips and treatment ideas.
Plantar fascia is a band of tissue that helps support the arch of the foot. The tissue connects the heel bone to the base of the toes. There is fat in the heel of the foot that covers the plantar fascia. As the body ages, the fat thins, causing a greater chance of injury.
The result is severe pain in the heel when weight is on the foot. The injury, called plantar fasciitis, is common in overweight people, physically active people or people who are on their feet for long periods.
Pain is worse in the morning because the tissue is tighter from inactivity.
Repeated tearing of the fascia affects its ability to support the arch. Eventually, inflammation settles in the tissue, causing pain. People who dance, run, jog or walk can irritate the tissue.
Arthritis can cause inflammation in the tendons, which can lead to plantar fasciitis.
Plantar fasciitis affects diabetics more than others, though doctors do not know why. Individuals with flat feet or high arches are prone to plantar fasciitis. Women who wear heels put pressure on the Achilles, the tendon attached to the fascia.
Age is another factor because as the body ages the arch sags, putting more pressure on the thinning heel. Weight and pregnancy can break down the tissue on the heel, causing heel pain.
Avoid gaining weight and try to maintain a weight that is appropriate for your age and height. Stretch before walking or before any type of exercise. Stretch in the morning when you first get out of bed to loosen the calf muscles, arches and the Achilles tendons.
If you run, walk or jog, change your shoes often.
According to the Mayo Clinic, runners should change shoes after running 400 miles. Avoid high heels, shoes with low heels and going barefoot. Stick with shoes that have a moderate heel.
If you have plantar fasciitis, apply ice for 15 to 20 minutes at a time, three to four times a day. Elevate your feet. Avoid high-impact exercise. Buy orthotic inserts for your shoes to help with shock absorption and arch support.
Aspirin, acetaminophen, ibuprofen, or naproxen can help relieve pain.
Speak with your doctor before taking any over-the-counter medications.