Frequently Asked Questions

What is clubfoot?

Clubfoot is a congenital deformity of the foot that occurs in about 150,000-200,000 babies each year world- wide. Clubfoot results from the abnormal development of the muscles, tendons, and bones in the foot while the fetus is forming during pregnancy. While researchers have been unable to pinpoint the exact cause of clubfoot, both genetic and environmental factors are thought to play a role. Clubfoot is about twice as common in boys and occurs in both feet about 50% of the time. Clubfoot in an otherwise normal child can be corrected using the Ponseti method of manipulation and plaster cast applications, with minimal or no surgery. Minimal surgery includes tenotomy (clipping of Achiles tendon in about 80% of the cases) and anterior tibial tendon transfer (ATT in about 25% of the cases). The procedures are described in detail in the Ponseti Method Book. Click here for the downloadable version which you can find in multiple languages.

How is clubfoot treated?

Clubfoot can be corrected using the Ponseti method of manipulation and plaster cast applications, with minimal or no surgery. Ideally, the treatment should begin in the first week or two of life in order to take advantage of the elasticity of the tissues that form the ligaments and tendons in the foot. However, beginning treatment at a later age produces good results as well. The Ponseti method to treat clubfoot More than 50 years ago, Dr. Ignacio Ponseti developed an innovative, non-surgical treatment for clubfoot that involves the gentle, manual manipulation of the child’s foot and the application of toe-to-groin plaster casts. Over the course of several weekly sessions, the ligaments and tendons of the foot are gently stretched and then a cast is applied to keep the foot in its new corrected position. This method is repeated for five to eight weeks, and gradually, the displaced bones are brought back into alignment. Before applying the last plaster cast, which will the baby will wear for approximately three weeks, the Achilles tendon is often cut to complete the correction of the foot and by the time the cast is removed, this tendon will regenerate to a proper length. In order to prevent relapse following the casting process, the child will be fitted with a splint consisting of a bar with high top, open-toed shoes attached. The child will need to wear this splint full-time for the first 2-3 months and then at night for 2-4 years. More detailed information about the Ponseti method to treat clubfoot can be found here. Talk to other parents The most adamant supporters of Dr. Ponseti and his method to treat clubfoot are the parents of children who have recovered from this condition. Dr. Ponseti regularly receives thank you letters and photos from former patients and many familes are eager to share their stories with other parents. There are numerous websites and online support groups for parents of children with clubfoot. Click here to read these success stories.

What is the future of children with clubfoot?

Babies treated using the Ponseti method will have normal looking feet, with good mobility and function through- out life. The long term outcomes from this technique have far exceeded those of surgical treatments. Patients treated surgically develop stiffness, pain, and other physical disabilities.

Will my child be able to play sports?

Follow-up studies of clubfoot patients treated using the Ponseti method show that children and adults with corrected clubfoot may participate in athletics like anyone else. In fact, there are several well-known athletes that were successfully treated for clubfoot as infants including Troy Aikman (former Dallas Cowboys quarterback), Mia Hamm (professional soccer player), and Kristi Yamaguchi (figure skating gold medalist).

What about surgery?

Surgery does not cure clubfoot. Although the foot looks better after surgery, children will experience stiffness, weakness and pain, and during adolescence this pain often becomes crippling. Dr. Ponseti developed this method to treat clubfoot as an alternative to surgery after his research revealed very poor long term results among surgical patients.

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