Spring is here, which means kids are back to springtime sports. Participation in organized sports is at an all-time high, with more than 35 million children across the United States participating in numerous sports programs each year. By engaging in team sports, children benefit both physically and mentally, while learning about teamwork, healthy habits and self-control.
However, even healthy sports activities can lead to unavoidable injuries. Each year, 3.5 million kids under the age of 14 are injured while participating in team sports and recreational activities. The Puget Sound’s Foot & Ankle Surgical Associates encourages parents of young athletes to play it safe this spring and take the necessary precautions to help prevent sports-related foot and ankle injuries.
A common complaint from children participating in athletic activities is heel pain. Sports that involve jumping or wearing cleats can begin to irritate the center of the heel, causing painful pressure from side-to-side movements. As kids get their seasons started and are increasing their physical activity, the possibility of acquiring a sports-related injury becomes more and more likely.
“Parents should be mindful of sports that require a substantial amount of running and turning, or involve that contact. These can easily translate into injuries,” Dr. Kevin Lind, DPM at Foot & Ankle Surgical Associates, tells us. “Children’s feet can grow quite quickly at various times, but not in a consistent manner, as such, be sure to check the current size of their feet and inspect the fit of any shoes that they may have worn last season.”
As a child’s feet continues 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. Changing a child’s sock and shoe size promptly as they grow will allow more room for their feet to grow comfortably, and purchasing sport-specific shoes will help to prevent future injuries from occurring.
“Although foot problems result mainly from injury, hereditary factors, deformity or illness, improper footwear can aggravate pre-existing conditions,” Dr. Lind states. “Before parents invest in a new pair of children’s footwear, some foot factors need to be considered: shoes that don’t fit properly can aggravate the feet. “
Although you might have old, unused cleats lying around the house, be mindful that every child’s feet differ. Handing down footwear is discouraged due to injuries that can stem from an improper fit, as well as the potential of spreading fungi like athletes foot and nail fungus. It’s important to always measure a child’s feet before purchasing shoes to ensure that they fit just right.
Different sports can affect children’s feet and ankles in a number of ways.
Basketball players rely heavily on running and jumping, which increases the risk of sprained ankles, tendinitis and plantar fasciitis.
Kids who are playing basketball should wear a shoe with high ankle support, good shock absorption and a thick, stiff sole.
Tennis players are constantly shifting their weight and doing a great deal of lateral movement. These athletes must have shoes that support both sides of the foot and a flexible sole in order to prevent sprains, tissue problems, calluses and more.
Soccer players are required to run, jump and move laterally. Kids playing soccer should look for shoes that have enough room to wear with thick socks and should have multiple cleats in the heel area. Purchasing a properly fitted cleat will help reduce the risk of shin splints, heel pain and ingrown toenails.
Shoes for any sport that involves running should have good shock absorption, motion control and flexibility. Watch for signs of redness or irritation, which can signal if a shoe is too tight or too loose, and when children begin to show in-toeing, they may wear through the heels of their shoes much quicker than outgrowing the shoes themselves. Uneven heel wear can indicate a foot problem that should be checked by a podiatrist.
Stay safe this spring and help prepare your growing athlete for team sports by taking necessary precautions to 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, please call Foot and Ankle Surgical Associates at 360-754-3338 or visit their website for more information.