"While sports-related injuries can occur during any season or activity, transitioning from winter to spring sports can bring about a different set of concerns," said Gregory Catalano, DPM, FACFAS, aMassachusetts-based foot and ankle surgeon and Fellow Member of the American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons.
"Participating in sports during the spring vs. the winter season can require athletes to move from one type of playing surface to another. Competing on these different surfaces with varying impact can add stress to an athlete's foot or ankle. And, going from sport to sport without allowing time for the muscles and bones to rest can lead to overuse injuries - especially in younger athletes whose bones are still developing."
If your child plans on participating in a sport this spring after coming off of a winter sports season, consider these six tips to help protect them from serious foot or ankle injuries:
- Get a pre-season health and wellness check-up.
Having a medical evaluation in advance to the start of a season can help identify possible health concerns that have the potential to lead to injury.
- Take it slow.
Ask your child's coach to gradually increase their playing time during practice, and avoid pushing them full throttle. It's important your child's feet and ankles become accustomed to the level of activity required for the sport they are entering. Adequate conditioning can help keep a player free of injury and improve their performance during the season.
- Wear proper, broken-in shoes.
Different sports require different shoe gear. Wearing the appropriate, well-fitting, broken-in athletic shoes designed for a specific sport can eliminate heel and toe discomfort and improve your child's performance.
- Check their technique.
Most parents are their child's biggest cheerleaders. As such, you may be able to notice a difference in your child's form and technique, which often times is a tell-tale sign something may be wrong. Ask your child's coach to notify you if s/he is placing more weight on one side of their body, or if it is something more obvious like a limp.
- Insist on open communication if your child has pain.
Express to your child athlete that they should inform you and their coach of any pain or discomfort as soon as it occurs. Overuse injuries can be subtle and develop overtime, such as Achilles tendonitis and shin splints. The sooner an injury can be detected, the sooner it can be treated.
- If an injury occurs, remember R.I.C.E.
Often times, an injured foot or ankle can be healed with rest, ice, compression, and elevation (R.I.C.E.). If your child complains of foot or ankle pain, they should take a break from playing and allow time for recovery. If the pain persists, it may be the cause of something more serious. Consult a foot and ankle surgeon for a complete evaluation.
ACFAS has created an infographic for quick reference on pediatric foot and cleat injuries. For more information on keeping your feet and ankles safe while playing sports or to find a foot and ankle surgeon in your area, visit the American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons' patient education website at FootHealthFacts.org
The American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons is a professional society of over 7,200 foot and ankle surgeons. Founded in 1942, the College's mission is to promote research and provide continuing education for the foot and ankle surgical specialty, and to educate the general public on foot health and conditions of the foot and ankle through its consumer website, FootHealthFacts.org.
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