As we head into fall and the school season, that means many kids will be heading into their sports seasons as well. This might feel much different to them if they were in leagues over the summer, but there can be a pretty significant difference for you: having the kids in school all day might free up some time for you to get moving more, too!
Whether it’s you or your child (or both!) getting more exercise these days, you should always be aware that sports and activities always carry a risk of sports injuries. The feet and ankles, as front-line participants in so many games and exercises, have a penchant for getting hurt.
Now, this is by no means a call to abandon favorite activities. The benefits of sports and getting moving will almost always greatly outweigh the risk of foot injuries. But that doesn’t mean you should go into athletics for you and your family without some common-sense precautions!
By knowing more about different types of sports injuries and how they happen, you can be all that more adept at identifying them—and avoiding them in the first place!
Too Much Stress, Too Much Time
Think of the feet and ankles like a complex machine—because, in many ways, they are.
This area of the body contains more than a quarter of the bones in your entire body, and they are connected to muscles and each other via networks of tendons and ligaments. It is all put together in a way that allows us to move quickly, efficiently, and effortlessly.
But, as with any machine, there are limits.
Placing too much force on a machine can strain parts to the point of breaking. When it comes to our feet and ankles, this can happen in different ways.
We might try to make our bodies endure a greater load than they were ready or conditioned to take (such as by taking off into a sudden sprint before warming up). Or, foot structure itself could be placing greater strain on certain areas by changing the way weight is distributed over the foot.
Additionally, some machines can quickly wear down if you leave them running for too long. Our bodies function the same way.
When we exert ourselves, we are literally breaking down our bones and soft tissues on a cellular level. Giving ourselves rest periods after these activities allows our bodies the opportunity to rebuild, strengthen, and prepare themselves for the next time we have a go. That’s how fitness works!
However, if that recovery time isn’t factored in, we are basically continuing to grind away at ourselves. Eventually, parts of us can weaken to the point of injury.
What Kinds of Sports Injuries Are There?
Whether from sudden forces or lack of recovery time, sports injuries can take a number of forms. Here are a few of the conditions we regularly see in our patients.
- Achilles Tendinitis – Inflammation and strain to the Achilles tendon, the largest tendon in the body. Pain from Achilles tendinitis tends to manifest in the back of the heel or just above it. In more severe cases, the Achilles tendon can become partially torn or rupture completely.
- Stress Fractures – As bones weaken through overuse and repetitive stress, they can begin to develop hairline cracks along the surface. These injuries will require rest to heal.
- Ankle Sprains – The old familiar sprain, which is an overextension and strain of one or more ligaments surrounding the ankle joint. This can happen from any excess strain or force to the ankle, often from some form of twisting motion.
- Plantar Fasciitis – Strain and micro-tears in the plantar fascia, the thick band of tissue that runs beneath the foot. Often a cause of sharp heel pain when trying to move after any long period of inactivity.
How to Help Yourself Avoid Sports Injuries
There are many common-sense measures you and your family can take to help prevent sports injuries from cropping up.
- Wear the right footwear for the job. Different sports and activities place stress on different parts of the feet. Making sure you always have the right shoes for each activity, and that they’re providing the proper support you need, can help guard against injury.
- Warm up and cool down. Taking off from a cold start is never recommended for any form of physical activity. Give your body an opportunity to stretch and get lightly moving before going full speed, and your risk of injury will decrease.
- Increase your intensity gradually. Wanting to push your body too hard, too quickly can lead to plenty of pain. Be patient with your workout goals, and do not increase the intensity of a workout (weight, distance, or time) more than 10 percent per week. And if 10 percent feels like too much, never be afraid to dial back until you have a challenge that doesn’t feel dangerous.
Get More Advanced Help When You Need It
If you or a loved one is facing consistent pain or discomfort—whether before, during, or after sports—do not try to “walk it off.” Hold off on further activity and give us a call.
For some cases of sports injuries, simply some rest and changes in exercises may be needed. Other cases may require more advanced treatments such as custom orthotics or laser therapy. Whatever may be needed, forging on without addressing the issue will likely lead to further pain and complications ahead.
Call (516) 541-9000 to schedule an appointment with one of our expert podiatrists in Massapequa. Or, if you prefer to reach us via the Internet, fill out our online contact form and a member of our staff will get back to you.