Protecting young athletes’ feet, ankles
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Protecting young athletes’ feet, ankles

Jun 23, 2023

By Jon | on August 31, 2023

In today’s competitive youth sports landscape injuries are common, and when they do occur young athletes are often pressured to play through the pain.“The back-to-school season is prime time for foot and ankle injuries from fall sports like soccer, football and cross country,” said Richard Baker, DPM, FACFAS, a foot and ankle surgeon and Fellow Member of the American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons (ACFAS). “Fortunately, there are many steps parents, coaches and young athletes can take to prevent injuries from occurring in the first place and to discourage kids from playing through pain.”• A pre-season medical evaluation can help identify whether your child could possibly benefit from using an orthotic or wearing a supportive ankle brace while playing. This is especially important for those with previous sprains and injuries.• Old shoes can wear down and become uneven, causing the ankle to tilt. And as your child’s feet may have grown between seasons, their old shoes may not fit. The smart move is to replace athletic shoes at the start of each season. While children under 10 should wear all-purpose sports shoes, older youth athletes should wear sport-specific footwear.• It’s important that your child’s feet and ankles are accustomed to the level of activity required for the sport. Adequate conditioning in the off-season can help maintain a player’s ability to meet these demands, reducing their risk of injury and improving their performance during the season.• Calf stretches and light jogging before competition help warm up ligaments and blood vessels, reducing injury risk.• Ninety percent of ankle sprains are due to poor playing conditions. That’s why some surgeons recommend walking the field, especially in nonprofessional settings like public parks to look for spots that could catch a player’s foot. Alert coaching officials to any irregularities.• A difference in the way your child is moving is often a tell-tale sign that something is wrong. Playing with pain is never a winning strategy so encourage kids to be honest about pain or discomfort.• Your child doesn’t need to be involved in a formalized athletic program to be vulnerable to sports-related injuries. Foot and ankle surgeons warn of common injuries like plantar fasciitis, bone spurs, fractures and Achilles tendonitis due to repetitive, forceful motions that can occur in activities such as skateboarding. When skateboarding or engaged in other nonformal activities always wear protective gear, including supportive shoes, and seek treatment when there is pain or injury.• Often an injured foot or ankle can be treated with RICE — rest, ice, compression and elevation. Those with foot or ankle pain should take a break from playing and allow time for recovery. If pain persists something more serious may be happening, such as cartilage injuries or broken bones in the foot. Consult a foot and ankle surgeon for a complete evaluation, proper diagnosis and treatment plan. The sooner rehabilitation starts, the sooner your child can safely get back into the game.For more information on pediatric foot care or to find a foot and ankle surgeon near you, visit, the patient education website of the American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons.

This information is provided courtesy of StatePoint Media.