San Francisco Podiatry Video

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Thursday, January 16, 2014

Can I play basketball with these blisters?

Question:
Hi MyRunningDoc!

I have a basketball game tomorrow. Can I play basketball with these blisters without causing any problems?   What can put on it while I play?

Thanks!
JM


Answer:
Blisters under the ball of the foot can be painful. In the images above you can see that JM has developed some large blister that cover the entire big toe joint area. The blister may have started draining, or maybe he simply decided to pop and de-roof (meaning cut the blistered skin off) the blister in order to relieve the pressure. With large blisters, it is often necessary to drain blisters ton keep them from getting bigger. Yet doing so can make them more painful and take longer to heal.

In this case the raw pinkish area is going to be painful when running. Suddenly stopping or changing direction will also put a lot of stress on the blistered area and aggravate the raw skin under the big toe joint.

When you run, about 50% of you body weight is transmitted through this area. There are really only two ways to decrease the pressure to the ball of the foot at the big toe joint.

1. Decrease your activity (as in no basketball, walk less, etc.).
2. Move the pressure somewhere else. 

It is a simply rule of physics: you cannot remove pressure, but you can transfer it. It is possible to create a pad that moves the pressure from the big toe joint to the rest of the ball of the foot. By moving much of the pressure and irritation to the little toe joints, it may possible to play with less discomfort.


 
You can purchase pads at any drugstore that are designed for the ball of the foot. The idea is to hold the pad on the foot and identify the painful area. Clear pads obviously make this easier.

 The painful area is outlined on the pad.

The outlined area over the blister is cut away.

The pad now can put more pressure on healthy skin under the ball of the foot. The pad may stay in place well with a sock on. If not it can be taped in place to secure it. If properly placed, there will be less pressure on the blistered area. 



Even if properly offloaded, there is a risk that continuing to play will further erode the skin and cause more discomfort. In the end, if continuing to play on a de-roofed blister, it will take longer to heal. The increased mechanical irritation of running increases the chance of the blistered area becoming infected.

With any de-roofed blister (or other open wound) it is always best to seek an evaluation from your own physician before attempting treatment. You should speak with a sports medicine podiatrist to make sure that the blisters heal properly. You also need to identify the cause so that it doesn't happen again.

Dr. Christopher Segler, DPM is a podiatrist, Board Certified, American Board of Podiatric Medicine. He is also a 12-time Ironman Triathlon finisher. His sports medicine practice caters to athletes He sees patients in person in San Francisco, Houston, and Hawaii. He also offers remote consultations via webcam to athletes living abroad. If you have a sports injury question and are trying to figure out how to keep running, you can reach him directly at 415-308-0833. You can also learn more about blister causes and treatment at AnkleCenter.com and DocOnTheRun.com