It appears from press reports that Phillies reliever Chad Qualls did some damage to his right foot last Saturday and was benched for Sunday’s game. Even though he continued in the lineup this week, he may be playing with pain.
According to an April 9 story in the Philadelphia Inquirer, Qualls said it felt like a “knife was going at the back of my heel” when he was walking around in his spikes Saturday afternoon. The Phil’s training staff are mum, but I believe that Qualls’ pain might point to an Achilles tendon injury, one of the less frequent injuries among MLB pitchers, but a very serious one.
When a pitcher fires a pitch off the mound, his whole body is twisting and turning with incredible force. Qualls is a right hander, which means as he begins his pitch, his right foot is planted on the mound with his left foot leading the way. That right foot, his dominant foot, is where the pitch begins. With his weight on his right foot, he winds up, cocks his arm, and then turns his entire body towards home plate as he unloads the ball. During this turn, his right foot starts parallel to home plate, turns in sync with his upper body until his toes are pointing towards home plate, and then comes off the ground as he releases the ball. If any part of his movement is out of sync even a little, he can cause serious injury almost anywhere in his body.
From Chad’s description of his heel pain, the first thing I would look for is a strain or possible tear of the Achilles tendon. Usually the most common place of damage to the Achilles tendon occurs about 3-5 cm above where the tendon is joined to the foot at the insertion of the Achilles tendon. This area is called the watershed area due to poor blood supply, causing it to be the weakest part of the tendon. It’s an injury similar to the one that Ryan Howard experienced last season, but not as severe.
An injury to this area can be extremely painful and if he continues to play with an injury like that, he is possibly risking serious damage to that right foot if it goes untreated and continues to be symptomatic. The most common way to correct damage to the Achilles tendon is with Rest, Ice, Elevation and strengthening of the Achilles tendon. A review of his biomechanics during his pitching rotation would also be helpful to find the cause of his injury.
Injuries to the Achilles tendon are extremely painful and must be evaluated as soon as possible after feeling pain. Dr Adam Teichman at East Penn Foot And Ankle is expert at treating sports injuries to this area and will recommend the best course of treatment for you, with surgery only as a last resort