By Stephanie Stahl

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Foot and ankle injuries are often misdiagnosed which can lead to more serious, persistent problems, according to the new research.

Athlete Paul Picinich always played hard, until an intense flag football game landed him on the sidelines last year.

“Tried to grab the flag and felt something rip in my ankle,” said Picinich.

The next day he couldn’t walk, so he headed to urgent care.

According to Picinich, urgent care told him, “We’re probably looking at a sprain but the X-rays are pretty inconclusive. You’re probably going to need to get an MRI.”

Turns out it was much worse. Paul had multiple ligament tears in his ankle.

“My foot was disconnected almost fully from, you know, the rest of my leg,” said Picinich.

A new study from the American Osteopathic Association finds primary doctors often misdiagnose many common foot and ankle injuries.

Doctors say a second opinion and additional imaging can be critical.

Dr. Naresh Rao, a sports medicine specialist, said, “Long-term effects can be unfortunately painful, debilitating, can lead to Osteoarthritis, can lead to possible surgery.”

With the right diagnosis and intense therapy, Picinich had a shorter recovery than expected, and was back on the field in a month-and-a-half.

“I think the treatment regimen actually helped make it stronger,” said Picinich.

Strong enough that just weeks after his injury he took the plunge of a lifetime.

Experts say delayed diagnosis and treatment of foot and ankle injuries can also lead to reoccurring ankle sprains.

Stephanie Stahl