Foot and ankle treatments have come a long way.
Anyone who’s ever sprained or broken a foot or an ankle knows how debilitating it is. And, because we live in a city of active runners and hikers, doctors in the Pikes Peak region tend to see numerous serious foot and ankle injuries.
“We see a lot of athletic injuries in Colorado Springs, especially since there are a lot of great athletes here,” says Dr. John Shank, an orthopedic surgeon who specializes in foot and ankle injuries. Much of his work is sports-driven, he adds, “but we really see all sorts of situations from traumatic injuries to arthritis, and we try to take good care of all of them.”
Shank has served as a foot and ankle consultant for both the Colorado Rockies and Denver Broncos and currently is the foot and ankle consultant at the Olympic Training Center and Colorado College. He’s also in private practice with the Colorado Center of Orthopedic Excellence. “I chose ortho surgery because I feel like it’s a field where you can really improve somebody’s life after treatment,” he says.
Some of the most frequently occurring foot and ankle injuries are ligament or cartilage tears, ankle sprains, and strains, Achilles injuries, and fractured ankles. Treatments for all these have improved greatly in recent years. “I think the technology has really evolved,” he says, “so we have better treatments. The products out there, like implants, enable people to get back to their activity as soon as possible.”
A lot of ankle fractures, one of the most common injuries, happen while trail running or hiking over rough ground. “We see a lot of instability in the ankle, as a rule. Fractures happen when people overestimate their abilities,” he says, offering several examples: “Young athletes trying to push themselves. Hikers attempting things they shouldn’t. Out-of-shape 40-year-olds playing basketball.”
If you do injure yourself, he has some advice: “If it’s an emergency, call 911. Otherwise, use ice and elevation and seek medical attention as soon as possible.”
Over the years, he’s seen some pretty serious injuries. “Some of the more severe injuries are the pilon fractures of the foot and ankle or calcaneal fractures. They’re the hardest to treat. The complications are higher, and unfortunately, the outcomes tend to be lower. Usually they come from a car accident, a rock-climbing fall, or other fall from a height.”
The good news, he says, is that “most [other] issues are fixable so they are 100%. The new implants help, and physical therapy is vital to getting patients back to what they like to do in an expeditious manner. Our goal is always 100%. Sometimes we get there, and sometimes we don’t. But we always shoot for that.”