Clubfoot Treatment: Freddy Sanchez, A Success Story

Published: 09th July 2009
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When Freddy Sanchez was born, the doctor told his mother he would never walk. His right foot was smaller than his left and turned inward (a condition known as Clubfoot) and his left foot was pigeon-toed. Twenty-three years later, in 2000, he was drafted by the Boston Red Sox. He has since been traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates and has won several awards including Most Valuable Player of his competitive high school league and the Tony Conigliaro Award for overcoming adversity through spirit, determination and courage.

The road to Major League success, however was not easy. His mother, Michelle Sanchez remembers: "Every Tuesday night, I would remove Freddy's cast, and then the next day, we would go to the hospital's Club Foot Clinic." When the casts failed to correct Sanchez's foot, the Sanchez family opted for surgery at the Children's Hospital in Los Angeles. The surgery plus a set of orthopedic shoes - "like the ones Forrest Gump wore," Sanchez comments - eventually gave Sanchez two properly functioning feet.

Clubfoot is a fairly common birth defect occurring in 1 out of 1000 births. It is twice as likely to occur in males than in females, and it can affect either one or both of a child's feet. A foot affected by clubfoot is inverted so that the toes point in and down. The foot twists so that the top of the foot is where the bottom of the foot would normally be. The foot is usually smaller than a normal foot, and the calf-region can be affected as well so that the two legs are not the same length.

If treatment is sought early, then there is a 90% chance that a child will be able to walk normally. Otherwise the child will grow up unable to wear regular shoes and walking in a manner that looks as if he were walking on his ankles. Size differences between the feet of a successfully treated child can remain, and so mismatched shoes may be necessary even as an adult. Shoes with the proper orthopedic support are also important, as a treated foot has a tendency to twist back into its former position.

The corrected clubfoot will still not be perfect, however. You should expect it to stay 1 to 1 1/2 sizes smaller and somewhat less mobile than the normal foot. The calf muscles in your child's clubfoot leg will also stay smaller.

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