Keep Your Kids’ Feet in Fall Shape
Dance. Hockey. Gymnastics. Martial arts. Football. Soccer. Basketball. Volleyball.
Regardless of what they partake in, every parent loves the value sports can bring into their children’s lives. It can pay great dividends for them physically, emotionally, socially, and even academically as they mature.
But while sports are incredibly enriching for youth and help them grow in so many ways, it’s can also be a major source of injury. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an estimated 2.6 million children between the ages of 0-19 visit emergency rooms for sports-related injuries each year. And this is just taking the acute problems into account, as several young athletes also suffer from chronic injuries that can have a lasting impact on their lives.
As fall continues to progress and many sports get into full swing, the importance of safety for young athletes is more important than ever. This article will run you through the basics of preventing common sports injuries this season – whether your child is a proud member of the Bullpups, Vikings, Trojans, or any other youth sports team.
Start With the Right Gear
It doesn’t matter what sport your child participates in – the right gear is essential for protecting them from injury. This is especially true when it comes to shoes; some kids, and even parents, assume that any basic sneaker will do the trick. But different sports require different types of shoes to provide the proper support, and it’s important that you buy accordingly.
If your child plays football, for example, you’ll want to make sure they have cleats that fit properly and offer good ankle support. Soccer players need cleats as well, but they should also look for ones with good arch support to protect against plantar fasciitis. Meanwhile, dancers will need shoes that allow them to pivot and turn easily, while also providing support for the repetitive impact they endure during practice and performances.
Start off by consulting with our podiatrist about the right gear for your child’s sport is always a good idea. Dr. Timson can help you find the perfect shoes and other equipment to accommodate any special needs or considerations.
Quick tip – When you do find the right kind of shoes for your child, help them develop the habit that they should only be used for their intended activity. This helps keep them in better shape when needed most and contributes to a good sense of routine.
Encourage Warm-ups, Cool-downs, and Overall Technique
Expanding on the value of routine, stretching is essential to preventing foot injuries during the fall sports season. A large number of conditions that occur during this time of heightened play can be attributed to ‘overuse’, which essentially means that the same muscles are being used over and over again without proper rest. This can lead to things like Achilles tendonitis, shin splints, and stress fractures.
To help avoid these kinds of injuries, make sure your child warms up thoroughly before practices and games. This should include some basic cardio to get the heart rate up, followed by stretching exercises that focus on the muscles they’ll be using most during their particular activity. Once they’re done playing, cooling down with more stretching is equally important.
It’s also crucial that your child takes the time to focus on proper technique. This will minimize the risk of injury while also helping them perform better overall. For example, if they’re a pitcher on their baseball team, they should focus on keeping their elbow up when they throw to avoid stress on the shoulder. Working on proper kicking techniques can help prevent shin splints if they’re a soccer player.
There are countless other examples, but the point is that taking the time to focus on proper technique now will save them a lot of pain (and potentially missed games) down the road.
Recognize Signs of Trouble and Take Action
The absolute worst thing you can do for your child upon noticing a potential foot injury is to let it fester. While many problems start out as non-serious, it only takes time and a bit more stress for conditions to worsen.
If you notice your child limping, expressing fatigue, favoring one foot, or complaining of persistent pain in their feet or ankles, take action immediately. The sooner you get them into our office, the better. In some cases, simple treatments like icing or rest may be all that’s needed.
But What if My Kid Wants to Keep Playing?
Sports are undoubtedly fun, and it’s easy to see why most children try to hide their pain or play through it in the presence of an injury. But this is a dangerous mindset that can quickly lead to something much worse.
If your child is reluctant to seek medical treatment, explain to them that you’re only doing it to ensure they can keep playing in the long run. In many cases, a small problem now can be resolved quickly, while continuing to “play through the pain” can cause even further damage. The worse an injury becomes, or the longer it lasts without providing proper treatment, the higher the chances it will cause lasting pain or weakness.
At the end of the day, your child’s health and safety should always come first. Play it safe this fall by being proactive about preventing foot injuries and taking action as soon as any problems arise. If any pain or other issues persist, don’t hesitate to contact the Community Foot Clinic of McPherson to book an appointment. We have two offices in our region (McPherson and Hillsboro) that are ready and happy to see new patients.
Please also feel free to fill out our online contact form any time of day and a member of our staff will reach out to you.