As millions of avid golfers get ready for another season of pars and bogeys, they should be aware of potentially serious foot problems that can result from years of playing the game.

Although golf is not considered a rigorous sport, the physical act of repeatedly swinging a golf club in practice and on the links can lead to a condition known as hallux limitus, a jamming and deterioration of the big toe joint.

According to Dr. James M. Cottom DPM, FACFAS of Florida Orthopedic Foot & Ankle Center the movement and weight transfer that occur during the swing’s follow through can cause this problem and other chronic foot ailments. Dr. Cottom is a member of the American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons with offices in Sarasota, FL and Arcadia FL.

“When golfers follow through on their swing, they can overextend the big toe joint on the back foot,” says Cottom. “Those who have played the game avidly for several years eventually can wear out the cartilage or jam the big toe joint. The likely outcome, if left untreated, is painful arthritis in the big toe, which would make it very difficult to continue playing golf.”

Golfers who have pain and swelling around the big toe joint or have less mobility in this area than other parts of the foot should visit a foot and ankle surgeon for an examination and appropriate treatment. A history of trauma to the big toe area and bone structure also can precipitate the condition. Individuals with a long first metatarsal bone (big toe), for example, are more susceptible to joint compression and hallux limitus.

“If golfers experience pain in the big toe area when playing, they should consider it a warning sign that intervention is necessary before the joint becomes arthritic,” says Cottom. “In most situations, orthotics, NASIADs, injections and shoe gear modifications can be offered to provide relief, but others with advanced cases may require surgery.”

Another foot problem that is common in golfers is a neuroma or pinched nerve at the bottom of the foot. The weight transfer to the front foot that occurs in the follow through applies pressure that, over time, can cause a pinched nerve.

Cottom also advises golfers not to wear shoes that have a spike located directly beneath the ball of the foot.

“The pressure from that single spike, magnified by the several thousand steps taken during an average round, can cause intense pain and swelling in the ball of the foot,” He says.

Cottom says any pair of golf shoes can be made more foot friendly without sacrificing traction by removing the poorly located spikes.

For more information on foot, ankle or leg conditions that affect athletes, contact Dr. Cottom at Florida Orthopedic Foot & Ankle.

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