Being born with a clubfoot is actually considered a birth defect. With this particular birth defect, the shape of the foot is altered so that it points downward and is turned in. The cause of the defect are the tissues that connected the bone to the muscles in the leg. These tendons are shorter than they’re supposed to be, so the foot is pulled into a position that is abnormal. There may also be changes to the ankle joint, the bones of the foot, and the muscles a well.
Facts About Clubfoot
1. About 1 in 1,000 babies is born with clubfoot in the United States each year. This means about 5,000 children in the US in total are born with the birth defect.
2. Boys are 2x more likely to develop clubfoot before birth than girls.
3. Having another birth defect, such as spina bifida or cerebral palsy, increases the chances of clubfoot being present at birth.
4. If a mother has one child that was born with clubfoot, then the chances of having another child with the same birth defect are about 4%, or 1 in every 25 births.
5. Having a family history of clubfoot, even on the father’s side, increases the chances of this birth defect being present.
6. Infections during the pregnancy, smoking, or using illicit drugs also increase the chances of clubfoot.
7. The incidence of clubfoot in Japan is 50% less than it is in the United States.
8. If both parents were born with clubfoot, then there is a 15% chance that a child will be born with the birth defect.
9. Clubfoot brings with it a 14% higher risk of neural tube defects and congenital heart conditions.
10. 40% of the children who are born with clubfoot will have the condition affect both feet.
11. Around the world, 150,000 – 200,000 babies with clubfoot are born each year. Up to 160,000 of them will be born in developing countries.
12. 80% of the cases of clubfoot occur in countries that have middle-to-low income.
13. Children born in Hawaii have a 6x higher risk of being born with clubfoot than the rest of the United States.
14. The developing world bears 90% of the cases of clubfoot, but receives only 10% of the healthcare funding to treat it.
15. The average cost of a cure for clubfoot from a global perspective: $400.
16. The Ponseti Method for treating clubfoot is almost 100% effective.
17. Every year, there are more than 203,000 total castings that take place to treat clubfoot, with about 38,000 children being treated.
Although clubfoot is not generally painful, it does become problematic to the child once they begin to try walking. Without treatment, arthritis commonly develops in the foot and this can cause a lifetime of issues. The skin around the foot may also get thick and because children are highly adaptable, it is not uncommon to see a child with clubfoot walking on the tops of their feet. Sometimes surgery is necessary, while early treatment for clubfoot may involve casting and foot positioning to stretch the tendons and then reinforce the strength of the foot by allowing the heel cord to grow.
Most children are able to wear normal shoes, participate in activities, and live a long, fulfilling life when clubfoot is properly treated.
What Causes Clubfoot?
Although children being born with clubfoot has been documented throughout history, even dating to the time of the ancient Egyptians, we do not know what actually causes clubfoot. A genetic cause is suspected, considering twin studies where one twin has the defect and the other does not, but this has not been confirmed.
What we do know is that it can be effectively treated, sometimes without surgery. Through casting, splinting, stretching, and positioning, children can have the issue corrected in their early months of life and then go on to run and play just like every other kid. All children are treated in non-surgical methods first.
Diagnosing clubfoot is rather easy. All it takes is a visual inspection of the child, usually at birth, and then x-rays are usually taken to determine if there is an issue with the bone structure. Troy Aikman played professional football and he was born with clubfoot. Kristi Yamaguchi competed in the Olympics and was born with the birth defect as well. It takes a little time to overcome the issue, but it can be done and a happy, healthy life is the result.