Club foot

Club foot
Club foot
Classification and external resources

bilateral club foot
ICD-10 M21.5, Q66.8
ICD-9 736.71, 754.5-754.7
OMIM 119800
DiseasesDB 29395
eMedicine radio/177 orthoped/598
MeSH D003025

A club foot, or congenital talipes equinovarus (CTEV),[1] is a congenital deformity involving one foot or both.[2] The affected foot appears rotated internally at the ankle. TEV is classified into 2 groups: Postural TEV or Structural TEV.

Without treatment, persons afflicted often appear to walk on their ankles, or on the sides of their feet. It is a common birth defect, occurring in about one in every 1,000 live births. Approximately 50% of cases of clubfoot are bilateral. In most cases it is an isolated dysmelia. This occurs in males more often than in females by a ratio of 2:1. A condition of the same name appears in animals, particularly horses.



The deformities affecting joints of the foot occur at three joints of the foot to varying degrees. They are [2]

The deformities can be remembered using the mnemonic, "InAdEquate" for Inversion, Adduction and Equinus.[4]


There are different causes for clubfoot depending on what classification it is given. Structural cTEV is caused by genetic factors such as Edwards syndrome, a genetic defect with three copies of chromosome 18. Growth arrests at roughly 9 weeks and compartment syndrome of the affected limb are also causes of Structural cTEV. Genetic influences increase dramatically with family history. It was previously assumed that postural cTEV could be caused by external influences in the final trimester such as intrauterine compression from oligohydramnios or from amniotic band syndrome. However, this is countered by findings that cTEV does not occur more frequently than usual when the intrauterine space is restricted.[5] Breech presentation is also another known cause.[citation needed] cTEV occurs with some frequency in Ehlers Danlos Syndrome and some other connective tissue disorders, such as Loeys-Dietz Syndrome. TEV may be associated with other birth defects such as spina bifida cystica.

Prenatal Screening

Screening for club foot prenatally is a debatable topic. However, this is commonly done as it is easily identified using a ultrasound scan. Most fetuses undergo a 20 weeks gestation fetal abnormality scan [6] in which club foot is one of the abnormalities that can be picked up. Some doctors have argued that club foot may occasionally be associated with a syndromic disease and should therefore be screened. If no syndromic association is found prenatally, most fetuses with club foot are born and can live a normal life with medical treatment.


Clubfoot is treated with manipulation by podiatrists, physiotherapists, orthopedic surgeons, specialist Ponseti nurses, or orthotists by providing braces to hold the feet in orthodox positions, serial casting, or splints called knee ankle foot orthoses (KAFO). Other orthotic options include Dennis-Brown bars with straight last boots, ankle foot orthoses and/or custom foot orthoses (CFO). In North America, manipulation is followed by serial casting, most often by the Ponseti Method. Foot manipulations usually begin within two weeks of birth. Even with successful treatment, when only one side is affected, that foot may be smaller than the other, and often that calf, as well.

Extensive surgery of the soft tissue or bone is not usually necessary to treat clubfoot; however, there are two minimal surgeries that may be required:

  1. Tenotomy (needed in 80% of cases) is a release (clipping) of the Achilles tendon – minor surgery – local anesthesia
  2. Anterior Tibial Tendon Transfer (needed in 20% of cases) – where the tendon is moved from the first ray (toe) to the third ray in order to release the inward traction on the foot.

Of course, each case is different, but in most cases extensive surgery is not needed to treat clubfoot. Extensive surgery may lead to scar tissue developing inside the child's foot. The scarring may result in functional, growth and aesthetic problems in the foot because the scarred tissue will interfere with the normal development of the appendage. A child who has extensive surgery may require on average two additional surgeries to correct the issues presented above.

In stretching and casting therapy the doctor changes the cast multiple times over a few weeks, gradually stretching tendons until the foot is in the correct position of external rotation. The heel cord is released (percutaneous tenotomy) and another cast is put on, which is removed after three weeks. To avoid relapse a corrective brace is worn for a gradually reducing time until it is only at night up to four years of age.

Non-surgical treatment and the Ponseti Method

Treatment for clubfoot should begin almost immediately to have the best chance for a successful outcome without the need for surgery. Over the past 10 to 15 years, more and more success has been achieved in correcting clubfeet without the need for surgery. The clubfoot treatment method that is becoming the standard in the U.S. and worldwide is known as the Ponseti Method.[7] Foot manipulations differ subtly from the Kite casting method which prevailed during the late 20th century. Although described by Dr. Ignacio Ponseti in the 1950s, it did not reach a wider audience until it was re-popularized around 2000 by Dr. John Herzenberg in the USA and in Europe and Africa by NHS surgeon Steve Mannion while working in Africa. Parents of children with clubfeet using the Internet [8] also helped the Ponseti gain wider attention. The Ponseti method, if correctly done, is successful in >95% of cases [9] in correcting clubfeet using non- or minimal-surgical techniques. Typical clubfoot cases usually require 5 casts over 4 weeks. Atypical clubfeet and complex clubfeet may require a larger number of casts. Approximately 80% of infants require an Achilles tenotomy (microscopic incision in the tendon requiring only local anesthetic and no stitches) performed in a clinic toward the end of the serial casting.

Throughout the past decade, physicians at Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Children have been studying the effectiveness of both the Ponseti casting method and the French functional (physical therapy) method of stretching, massaging and taping and comparing the results with patients who have undergone surgery. Results of these studies have been presented at national and international conferences, such as the Pediatric Orthopaedic Society of North America annual meeting, the International Clubfoot Symposium, Brandon Carrell Visiting Professorship and the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons annual meeting, and have been published in the Journal of Pediatric Orthopaedics.[10]

After correction has been achieved, maintenance of correction may require the full-time (23 hours per day) use of a splint—also known as a foot abduction brace (FAB)—on both feet, regardless of whether the TEV is on one side or both, for several weeks after treatment. Part-time use of a brace (generally at night, usually 12 hours per day) is frequently prescribed for up to 4 years. Without the parents' participation, the clubfoot will almost certainly recur, because the muscles around the foot can pull it back into the abnormal position. Approximately 20% of infants successfully treated with the Ponseti casting method may require a surgical tendon transfer after two years of age. While this requires a general anesthetic, it is a relatively minor surgery that corrects a persistent muscle imbalance while avoiding disturbance to the joints of the foot.

The developer of the Ponseti Method, Dr Ignacio Ponseti, was still treating children with clubfeet (including complex/atypical clubfeet and failed treatment clubfeet) at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics well into his 90s. He was assisted by Dr Jose Morcuende, president of the Ponseti International Association.

The long-term outlook [11] for children who experienced the Ponseti Method treatment is comparable to that of non-affected children.

Watch a Video on the Ponseti Method

Botox is also being used as an alternative to surgery. Botox is the trade name for Botulinum Toxin type A. a chemical that acts on the nerves that control the muscle. It causes some paralysis(weakening) of the muscle by preventing muscle contractions (tightening). As part of the treatment for clubfoot, Botox is injected into the child’s calf muscle. In about 1 week the Botox weakens the Achilles tendon. This allows the foot to be turned into a normal position, over a period of 4–6 weeks, without surgery.

The weakness from a Botox injection usually lasts from 3–6 months. (Unlike surgery it has no lasting effect). Most club feet can be corrected with just one Botox injection. It is possible to do another if it is needed. There is no scar or lasting damage. BC Women and Childrens Hospital

Surgical treatment

On occasion, stretching, casting and bracing are not enough to correct a baby's clubfoot. Surgery may be needed to adjust the tendons, ligaments and joints in the foot/ankle. Usually done at 9 to 12 months of age, surgery usually corrects all clubfoot deformities at the same time. After surgery, a cast holds the clubfoot still while it heals. It is still possible for the muscles in the child's foot to try to return to the clubfoot position, and special shoes or braces will likely be used for up to a year or more after surgery. Surgery will likely result in a stiffer foot than nonsurgical treatment, particularly over time.

Without any treatment, a child's clubfoot will result in severe functional disability, however with treatment, the child should have a nearly normal foot. He or she can run and play without pain and wear normal shoes. The corrected clubfoot will still not be perfect, however; a clubfoot usually stays 1 to 1½ sizes smaller and somewhat less mobile than a normal foot. The calf muscles in a leg with a clubfoot will also stay smaller.

Long-term studies of adults with post-club feet, especially those with substantial numbers of surgeries, may not fair as well in the long term, according to Dobbs, et. al.,[12] A percentage of adults may require additional surgeries as they age, though there is some dispute as to the effectiveness of such surgeries, in light of the prevalence of scar tissue present from earlier surgeries.

Famous people

The club-foot, by José de Ribera.

Many notable people have been born with one or both feet in "clubbed" condition, including Roman emperor Claudius, Egyptian pharaoh Tutankhamun, statesman Prince Talleyrand, Civil War politician Thaddeus Stevens, comedian Damon Wayans, actor Gary Burghoff, and Eric The Midget from The Howard Stern Show, football players Steven Gerrard and Miguel Riffo, sledge hockey player Matt Lloyd, a Paralympian, mathematician Ben Greenberg, and filmmaker Jennifer Lynch.

The British Romantic poet George Gordon, Lord Byron had a clubfoot, which caused him much humiliation.

Comedian, musician, and actor Dudley Moore was born with a club foot. This was mostly unknown to the public as he wore one shoe with a slightly bigger sole to compensate when walking.

The figure-skater Kristi Yamaguchi was born with a clubfoot, and went on to win gold medals at both the Olympics and World Championships. The soccer star Mia Hamm was born with the condition. Baseball pitcher Larry Sherry, the 1959 World Series MVP, was born with club feet,[13] as was pitcher Jim Mecir, and both enjoyed long and successful careers. In fact, it was suggested in the book Moneyball that Mecir's club foot contributed to his success on the mound; it caused him to adopt a strange delivery that "put an especially violent spin" on his screwball, his specialty pitch. The San Francisco Giants held the record as the team with the all-time highest number of players with clubbed feet as of July 2010, and Freddy Sanchez, one of its infielders, cites his ability to overcome the defect as a reason for his success.[14] Tom Dempsey of the New Orleans Saints, born with a right club foot and no toes (this was his kicking foot), kicked an NFL record 63-yard (58 m) field goal. This kick became famous as the longest NFL field goal in history. Former NFL quarterback Troy Aikman beat being born with a clubfoot to enjoy a productive Hall of Fame career.[15]

The Nazi Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels had a right clubfoot (possibly incurred after birth as a complication of osteomyelitis),[16] a fact hidden from the German public by censorship. Because of this malformation, Goebbels needed to wear a leg brace. That, plus his short stature, led to his rejection for military service in World War I.

De Witt Clinton Fort, who served in the Confederate Army as a captain, was born with a clubfoot, and he was known during the American Civil War as Captain "Clubfoot" Fort, C.S.A.

Tutankhamun had a club foot and a cleft palate, and it is likely that he needed a cane to walk.[17]

Princess Isabella of Denmark was born with a clubfoot as shown in this photograph at one year old [18] and in this photograph at three years old.[19]

In literature

In animals

Apparent club foot, thought to be from post-natal environmental conditions, not congenital
Severe club foot in a pony, probably congenital in origin
Left hoof normal, right hoof possible grade one club foot

Club feet occur in other animals, notably equines. The condition is characterized by a strongly upright pastern and a corresponding rotation of the coffin bone in the hoof. The condition often affects only one foot. Severity varies, with some animals usable for work or riding, and others unsound for life. Careful farrier work on the hooves can lessen the severity of many cases, and in certain circumstances surgery may be beneficial. The visible outward appearance of a club foot has different possible origins that include a genetic predisposition to the condition, a congenital defect formed while the animal is in the womb, or problems with diet and bone development during the early post-natal period. Certain horse breeds appear to be more predisposed to the condition than others, but research has yet to identify the genes involved.

A grading scale exists to assess the severity of club feet, which are caused by a deep digital flexor contraction syndrome. When the muscle fibers of the upper leg's deep ditigal flexor muscle contract excessively, this affects the tendon of the same name that comes off of this muscle group and attaches at the bottom of the coffin bone. A constant upward pull by the tendon on the coffin bone and other structure of the horse's hoof creates the condition. While many young foals are born with somewhat upright pasterns, the condition may resolve naturally or with minimal intervention if begun early. However, some cases are so severe that more drastic treatment may be required.[20]


  1. ^ The term talipes is from Latin talus, ankle + pes, foot. Equino-, of or resembling a horse and -varus, turned inward.
  2. ^ a b "CTEV: Deformities & Correction". LifeHugger. Retrieved 2009-12-26. 
  3. ^ > equinus Citing:
    • Mosby's Medical Dictionary, 8th edition. © 2009, Elsevier.
    • McGraw-Hill Concise Dictionary of Modern Medicine. © 2002
  4. ^ "Medical mnemonics". LifeHugger. Retrieved 2009-12-26. 
  5. ^ Wynne-Davies R (1972) Genetic and environmental factors in the etiology of talipes equinovarus. Clin Orthop 84: 9–13
  6. ^ Use of Ultrasound in pregnancy: Pregnancy problems
  7. ^ To Parents of Children Born with Clubfeet: Orthopaedics: UI Health Topics
  8. ^ nosurgery4clubfoot : nosurgery4clubfoot
  9. ^ Morcuende JA, Dolan LA, Dietz FR, Ponseti IV (2004). "Radical reduction in the rate of extensive corrective surgery for clubfoot using the Ponseti method". Pediatrics 113 (2): 376–80. doi:10.1542/peds.113.2.376. PMID 14754952. 
  10. ^ Center for Excellence in Clubfoot Research at TSRHC
  11. ^ Clubfoot Clinic, accessed September 21, 2011
  12. ^ J Bone Joint Surg Am. 2006 May;88(5):986-96. Long-term follow-up of patients with clubfeet treated with extensive soft-tissue release. Dobbs MB, Nunley R, Schoenecker PL. Source Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, Washington University School of Medicine, One Children's Place, Suite 4S20, St. Louis, MO 63110, USA.
  13. ^ The Big Book of Jewish Baseball: An ... - Google Books
  14. ^ Kovacevic, Dejan (2006-08-18). "Freddy or not, here comes last leg of batting race". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. 
  15. ^ Clubfoot doesn't stop rookie OL Simmons - New England Patriots Blog - ESPN Boston
  16. ^ Goebbels is commonly said to have had club foot (talipes equinovarus), a congenital condition. But William L. Shirer, who spent the 1930s in Berlin as a journalist and was acquainted with Goebbels, wrote in The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich (Simon and Schuster 1960) that the deformity arose from a childhood attack of osteomyelitis and a botched operation to correct it. Osteomyelitis, an infection within the bone marrow, can cause the destruction of one or more of the growing points in the long bones of the leg, a condition known as septic osteoblastic dysgenesis. This will result in a shortened leg.
  17. ^ King Tut died from malaria, broken leg
  18. ^ D.K.H. Kronprinsparret - Prinsessens fødselsdag
  19. ^
  20. ^ Redden, R.F. "Inside the Club Foot" The Horse, online edition, May 1, 2008. Accessed February 4, 2011

External links

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • club foot — n [U and C] a foot that has been badly twisted since birth and that prevents someone from walking properly >club footed adj …   Dictionary of contemporary English

  • club foot — club feet N COUNT If someone has a club foot, they are born with a badly twisted foot. (in AM, usually use clubfoot) …   English dictionary

  • club|foot — «KLUHB FUT», noun, plural feet. 1. a deformed foot, appearing short and distorted. 2. a deformity of the foot caused by faulty development before birth; talipes. The front part is twisted and appears shortened …   Useful english dictionary

  • club foot — ► NOUN ▪ a deformed foot which is twisted so that the sole cannot be placed flat on the ground …   English terms dictionary

  • club|foot|ed — «KLUHB FUT ihd», adjective. having a clubfoot …   Useful english dictionary

  • Club Foot — For other uses, see Club foot (disambiguation). This article is about the early 1980s Austin, Texas punk venue Club Foot, which should not be confused with the San Francisco punk venue of the same name and time period. Club Foot was a large live… …   Wikipedia

  • club foot — noun Etymology: club (I) : a rounded foot on a flat base on a furniture leg compare dutch foot; see foot illustration * * * n. 1) a deformed foot that is twisted so that the sole cannot be placed flat on the ground. It is typically congenital or… …   Useful english dictionary

  • club foot — UK / US noun Word forms club foot : singular club foot plural club feet a) [countable] a foot twisted to one side as a result of a medical condition b) [uncountable] a medical condition in which someone s foot is twisted to one side Derived word …   English dictionary

  • club foot — noun 1 (C) a foot that has been badly twisted since birth and that prevents someone from walking properly 2 (U) the medical condition of having a club foot club footed adjective …   Longman dictionary of contemporary English

  • club-foot — n. a congenital deformity of one or both feet in which the patient cannot stand with the sole of the foot flat on the ground. In the most common variety (congenital talipes equinovarus) the foot points downwards, the heel is inverted, and the… …   Medical dictionary

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