Mark E. Schakel, MD, Orthopedic Foot and Surgeon

Mark E. Schakel, MD, Orthopedic Foot and Surgeon

As the weather in spring months transitions into consistently warm summer days and people increase their physical activity, foot and ankle surgeons like Santa Rosa’s Mark Schakel, MD, begin to see stress fractures occur with greater frequency. Santa Rosa Orthopedics (SRO, and Dr. Schakel speak out to educate the public on preventing stress fractures, and how to treat them when they occur.

Studies show that stress fractures are among the most common and potentially severe athletic injuries. A stress fracture typically occurs in the foot or lower leg after the muscles are overworked during endurance and/or high-impact exercise. Overtired muscles lose their ability to lessen shock from repeated impacts, and the shock becomes transferred to bones with each successive impact. Bones can crack in this state of overuse, and if the athlete fails to keep weight off of the injury in the weeks that follow, recovery time can escalate from one or two months to six months or a year.

For any type of foot or ankle injury, finding a doctor with appropriate qualifications is the most important first step towards recovery. Mark E. Schakel, MD, Director of Santa Rosa Orthopedics’ Foot and Ankle Program, is the only board certified and fellowship trained orthopedic foot and ankle surgeon practicing in Sonoma, Mendocino, Lake, and Humboldt counties. After completing medical school, Dr. Schakel received his fellowship training in foot and ankle surgery under Dr. Roger Mann, a world-renowned orthopedic foot and ankle surgeon.

Dr. Schakel works in conjunction with experienced physical therapists at SRO’s Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation facility to provide coordinated care for both surgical and non-surgical treatment, making SRO’s Foot and Ankle Program a smart choice for Sonoma County residents suffering from stress fractures and other foot and ankle problems.

Dr. Schakel explains, “This is the time of year when people generally increase their levels of activity. Athletes, especially runners, who may have tapered off their exercise regiments during the winter, come out in droves to get back in shape for the summer months. Many of these athletes want to resume their workouts at the same intensity they enjoyed before the offseason, but they are most vulnerable to stress fractures when they fail to build up their workout intensities gradually over time. As any running coach will tell their athletes, starting slow and wearing proper footwear is of the utmost importance to avoiding injury.”

Unfortunately, stress fractures still occur even when all precautions are taken. Other factors that contribute to stress fracture vulnerability include bone insufficiency from osteoporosis, nutrition deficiency, and irregular menstrual cycles, as well as preexisting foot or ankle problems that may affect the athlete’s technique and impact distribution. Females are typically more prone to stress fractures than their male counterparts, but this type of injury is common to both sexes.

Dr. Schakel continues, “Other steps athletes and active people can take to lower their risk for stress fractures include maintaining a healthy calcium and vitamin-D rich diet to build bone strength, alternating types of exercises and physical activities, and keeping up with strength training during the offseason to prevent muscle fatigue.”

“When a stress fracture occurs, the absolute worst thing the patient can do is to try to work through the pain. The pain symptoms of a stress fracture are often subtle but persistent, making it difficult for patients to recognize the seriousness of their injuries when they first experience pain. Swelling and localized pain that increases in intensity during weight bearing exercises suggest that there is a stress fracture. Due to the frequency of this injury the severity of its complications, it is important that all active people be aware of its indications so they know to see a doctor when symptoms first present themselves.”

“For the competitive minded athlete, it is not easy to comply with a treatment plan that prohibits all physical activity requiring the injured bone to bear weight. Even so, failure to rest the injured bone produces devastating results. An athlete that ignores pain and continues to exercise will inevitably complicate the stress fracture, turning an injury that normally takes only six to eight weeks to heal on its own into an injury that may require surgery and three-to-four times longer recovery time.”

Although surgery is rarely required for stress fractures when they are caught early, fellowship trained foot and ankle surgeon’s are the most qualified medical professionals for determining the best treatment route. If a patient has a coexisting foot problem–such as bunions, for example–Dr. Schakel’s surgical expertise can prove extremely beneficial to the patient. Since many foot and ankle injuries can be treated surgically and non-surgically, the combined breadth of knowledge between sports medicine trained physical therapists and Dr. Schakel guarantees that patients with stress fractures receive personalized treatment for their specific bone structure and lifestyle needs. SRO physical therapists offer detailed sports medicine rehabilitation and injury prevention care for athletes dealing with injuries, and individualized treatment for all people who enjoy active lifestyles.

At SRO, Dr. Schakel is part of a collaborative team of eight multi-specialist orthopedic surgeons offering advanced treatment in joint replacement, orthopedic trauma, hand surgery, and physical therapy in addition to foot and ankle care. A trusted name in the region for over 60 years, Dr. Schakel and SRO Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation regularly receive referrals from doctors and podiatrists for patients with stress fractures and other foot and ankle problems. To schedule an appointment with Dr. Schakel, call 707-546-1922.