Although school is out for summer, for many, this time of year marks the beginning of pre-season training for student athletes who are preparing to participate in competitive sports in the fall. With more than 35 million young athletes across the United States participating in numerous sports programs each year, participation in organized sports is currently at an all-time high.

Student athletes benefit by engaging in team sports both physically and mentally while learning fundamental skills about teamwork, healthy habits and even self-control, but even participating in healthy physical activity like organized sports can lead to injuries. This summer, the Puget Sound’s Foot & Ankle Surgical Associates is encouraging student athletes to prepare for their upcoming sports seasons by playing it safe and taking some necessary precautions in order to help prevent sports-related foot and ankle injuries during training this summer.

Summer sports injuries
Pre-season conditioning and fundamental skills training are other areas vital to avoid injury. Photo courtesy: Foot & Ankle Surgical Associates

“There has been an increase in overuse injuries over the past several years due to athletes competing all year long with little time for recovery and repair,” Dr. Thomas Burkhardt, DPM at Foot & Ankle Surgical Associates tells us. “We see stress fractures and heel pain from Plantar Fasciitis or Sever’s Disease, an inflammation of the heel bone growth plate, with the increases in competition.”

Common sports-related injuries that young athletes are likely to experience are sprains and strains, with ankle sprains being the most common. Student athletes are also prone to problems with tendonitis, growth plate issues, bone fractures, and contusions to the feet and ankles. However, many types of injuries to the foot and ankle can be prevented. Dr. Burkhardt emphasizes that it is always important to properly warm up before training.

“The traditional stretching warm up with stretching only is slowly being replaced by sport-specific injury prevention programs,” Dr. Burkhardt says. “It is important for athletes, parents and coaches to be aware of the specific warm-up drills that will help prevent injury in a specific sport. Pre-season conditioning and fundamental skills training are other areas vital to avoid injury.”

Student injury prevention
Sprains and strains are the most common injuries student athletes experience. Photo courtesy: Foot & Ankle Surgical Associates

Another way to prevent injury is by making sure shoes and gear fit properly. As a young athlete’s feet continue to grow, sport-specific shoes are an important way to help protect feet as they develop and are exposed to different forms of physical requirements from various types of athletic activities. Poor-fitting shoes can result in weakened biomechanics and ultimately set the athlete up for an overuse injury, which typically stems from an athlete taking on too much physical activity too quickly. This can result in an injury to a muscle or joint, such as tendonitis or a stress fracture caused by repetitive trauma. Additional measures can be taken in order to help prevent an overuse injury like using braces, orthotics or taping.

“It is vital that the athletes, parents and coaches realize that proper treatment and rehabilitation of injuries is important,” Dr. Burkhardt states. “Often, we see athletes trying to play through injury because of an important game or tournament coming up. If an injury is not treated properly, they may end up with performance-limiting chronic pain and never reach their full athletic potential.”

Foot and Ankle Surgical Associates
A few precautions can help prevent injuries during pre-season training. Photo courtesy: Foot & Ankle Surgical Associates

As a father to three kids who have competed in NCAA level athletics, sports medicine is of special interest to Dr. Burkhardt. Foot & Ankle Surgical Associates and their team of leading physical therapists have been caring for athletes of all ages for several years using state of the art equipment including diagnostic ultrasound, digital x-ray and CT scans, which are all on-site at their clinic in Tumwater. Foot & Ankle Surgical Associate’s physicians and the physical therapy team work together in order to create a customized treatment plan focusing on getting athletes back to full participation as quickly and efficiently as possible.

Stay safe this summer and help prepare your young athlete in training for team sports by taking necessary precautions to help reduce the risk of foot and ankle injuries. If your child is currently experiencing a sports-related injury, visit the team at Foot & Ankle Surgical Associates for a prompt evaluation and treatment. To schedule an appointment with one of their providers at any of their six conveniently located clinics in the Puget Sound, including one in Tacoma, call Foot & Ankle Surgical Associates at 253-272-2999 or visit their website for more information.

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