As warmer weather sets in across Long Island, youth sports have resumed outdoor practices, preparing young athletes for games and competitions. While spring and summer sports can help children stay healthy and strong, injuries are common, even in limited-contact sports such as baseball and tennis.
An unexpected foot or ankle injury can force children to leave the field for days, weeks, or even months and prove to be a serious setback in their sports training and participation.
The Difficulties of Changing Seasons
Sports injuries can happen anywhere and during any season; however, changing seasons can require significant adjustments. Children who spend months playing indoors on artificial surfaces may struggle to re-adapt to natural grass and curated turf. Since different surfaces place different demands on the body, an athlete’s foot may endure significant stress—stress which can result in an acute impact injury or prompt symptoms that develop gradually and over a longer period of time.
Common Spring and Summer Sports Injuries
Participating in any sport carries a certain amount of injury risk. While some sports, such as football, are associated with higher rates of injury, every athletic endeavor has the potential to end in a serious accident.
Ankle sprains are one of the most common injuries reported in children. Sprains typically occur when a sudden movement or twist—perhaps while falling or lunging—over-extends the ligaments surrounding the ankle bones. Most sprains heal on their own, but they are often painful and hinder mobility.
Stress fractures are common sports injuries. When athletes regularly push their bodies to the limit, they risk overexerting their muscles. Sometimes, this increased stress can transfer to the bone, causing tiny cracks called stress fractures.
Stress fractures can be caused by:
- Sudden or rapid increase in the frequency or intensity of exercise
- A longer-than-expected training session or sports season
- Different training materials, including harder playing surfaces or poorly designed equipment
Shin splints, or medial tibial stress syndrome, are characterized by progressive pain along the inner edge of the shinbone. This condition is caused by intense athletic activity and overuse, creating inflammation and small tears in the tendons, muscles, and bone tissue around the shin. Common symptoms of shin splints include a dull or aching pain down the front of the leg, pain that increases during or after exercise, and shins that are painful when touched.
Every sport that requires significant movement places young athletes at-risk for broken and fractured toes. The symptoms of a fractured toe can include:
- Bruising around the affected toe
- Localized swelling
- Difficulty walking
If the fractured bone is displaced, the toe could have a deformed or unusual appearance.
Achilles tendinitis is a common overuse injury of the Achilles tendon—the strong, fibrous band of tissue that connects the calf muscles to the heel bone. While Achilles tendinitis is most common in runners, recreational sportspeople—including casual basketball players and tennis enthusiasts—could also be at risk of developing this condition.
Achilles tendinitis can usually be treated at home. However, you should always consult a podiatrist about this condition, as it can recur and worsen over time.
Plantar fasciitis is common among physically active children and adults. The plantar fascia is a strong band of tissue that connects the bottom of the heel with the base of the toes. Plantar fasciitis develops when that band becomes inflamed.
Since the plantar fascia plays a critical role in locomotor movement, inflammation of the tissue can cause intense pain.
Calcaneal apophysitis, sometimes called “Sever’s disease,” is a common cause of heel pain in growing children. This condition is most often diagnosed in those who play sports or are otherwise very physically active.
Sever’s disease is typically caused by repetitive stress to the heel and its surrounding tendons and could be exacerbated by growth spurts. While this condition is called a “disease,” it can usually be treated with over-the-counter pain medication and bed rest. For particularly severe injuries, your podiatrist might recommend physical therapy or structured stretching exercises.