A new school season means hitting the books, but many students will be hitting the court and field as well.
We’d say a student athlete’s thoughts are turning back to the game, but we know well that those thoughts don’t tend to stray far over the summer, either. Whether you’re an Eagle, a Mustang, or have loyalties with other teams in our great area, everybody wants to shine through their season!
That’s why it can be so heartbreaking if a sports injury occurs and the excitement of play turns into the frustration of sitting out. All that training, preparation, and anticipation just goes “poof.”
When an athlete with a sports injury comes into our office, we want to get them back into action as quickly and as safely as possible. That can still take time, though. The body can only recover at a certain rate, and increasing activity again before an injury has fully healed can increase the risk of re-injury and chronic problems!
So while it’s part of our job to treat athletes with sports injuries, we’re fully on the side of seeing them avoid suffering pain in the first place!
There are several easy and effective steps players of all sports can take to help keep their feet and ankles strong and lower their chances of getting hurt. And if you’re a parent of a student athlete, encouraging these behaviors can be a great help!
Choose the Right Shoes
This might seem like a no-brainer on the surface, but there are a couple factors to consider when selecting the right shoes for a sport.
Shoes are designed to be most effective and supportive for their respective sports. Wearing basketball shoes on a football field, for example, is a mistake. However, the specific type of cleat you might need for football can depend on your position, as well. Do you need more support around the ankle, or less?
And then there is the foot itself. Your foot biomechanics, including gait (such as overpronation) and structure (such as high or fallen arches) are also key considerations, and a shoe should help support these as well.
Check out our video on custom orthotics!
A trained associate at a sporting goods store should have the knowledge to provide sound options for a player. In some cases, additional support might be needed in the form of inserts or other custom orthotic devices. We can help you with that.
One other matter to keep in mind: shoes that worked well last year or even earlier this year may not be the best fit anymore. Growing feet change quickly, and there’s also the factor that the shoes have just worn out due to use. Make sure to check!
Warm Up and Cool Down
This is likely part of a standard group training session, but it should be incorporated into any independent activity as well.
Warm ups that can be particularly helpful for the feet and ankles include calf stretches and heel drops, which help condition the calf muscles and Achilles tendons to take excess stress off the heel bone.
Specific warm-ups and exercises can be recommended based on one’s individual needs and goals. It’s important to know how to perform these correctly for maximum benefit.
More dynamic exercises, such as light jogging, are also important in warming up muscles. This part can be mixed up a bit now and then to help keep routines from becoming boring. Losing focus on warm-ups can lead to sloppy repetitions, and that’s not helping anyone!
Build Yourself Up Gradually
Our bodies are not invincible engines of power. If you are not prepared to handle certain loads of stress and strain, you may become injured.
Our bones, muscles, and tendons are amazing in how they can recover from the demands we throw at them and grow stronger, but they need the time and opportunity to do so. Both sudden bursts of intensity or extended periods of repetitive stress can overwhelm our systems, and that’s when painful problems such as Achilles tendinitis or stress fractures can happen.
A general guideline for increasing the intensity of training and workouts is no more than 10 percent per week. If you’re running, that can mean no more than 10 percent more distance. If strength training, increase the weight no more than 10 percent.
And remember this is only a general figure. If 10 percent feels like too much, do not be afraid to dial down to something that is challenging but more comfortable.
Most coaches are well aware of good rules of thumb for setting reasonable workout expectations, but it never hurts for parents to keep tabs on sessions to make sure all precautions are being taken.
Take Care of Problems Sooner than Later
One of the more troublesome problems with sports injuries is how they grind against an athlete’s will to keep playing. There’s a lot of pressure out there to “play through the pain” and “walk it off.” Not only is that bad advice at the time of an injury; it can have long-lasting effects into the future as well!
Whenever pain strikes suddenly during an activity, it is always best to stop and take weight off the affected area. Your body is telling you it needs a time out.
Rest, ice, and elevation are good initial steps toward tending to an injury. If improvement isn’t felt after a couple days, however, it’s time to give us a call. (Although, in cases of severe pain, such as from a bad sprain, you’ll want to give us a call even sooner!)
Correctly diagnosing the cause of the injury will not only lead to faster, more effective treatment, but provide sound guidance on keeping this problem from poking up its ugly head in the future.
While some patience might have to be expressed for recovery, we do promise to help you get back to full strength as fast and as safely as possible.
If you need help with any foot or ankle problem, Richardson Podiatry is here to help. Call us at (972) 690-5374 or fill out our online contact form to have a member of our staff reach out to you.