Sports are an excellent way for young athletes to stay active, improve their physical and mental health, and learn valuable life skills like teamwork and perseverance. However, the risk of injury comes with rigorous training regimes and intense competition.
This article will explore 5 common foot injuries in young athletes and offer tips on preventing them. So let's get started!
1: Plantar Fasciitis
When the plantar fascia, a tough band of tissue that extends from your heel to your toes, becomes inflamed or irritated, it results in plantar fasciitis. Improper footwear and poor biomechanics are the major contributing factors to this condition.
- Experiencing arch pain
- Achy heels
- Hurtful steps or jogs
- Stiffness in feet
Early intervention is key in preventing further damage from plantar fasciitis in young athletes.
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Stretch your feet
- Try low-impact sports
- Wear orthotics
- Avoid wearing worn-out shoes
2: Achilles Tendonitis
Achilles tendonitis is a common foot injury experienced by young athletes.
It is caused by inflammation and discomfort in the Achilles tendon that connects the calf muscles to the heel bone.
This injury usually happens due to the following:
- Overuse or repetitive stress on the tendon
- Improper footwear
- Tight calf muscles
- Ankle and lower leg pain that radiates from the back
- Stiffness in the morning hours
- Mild swelling around the affected area
If an athlete experiences Achilles tendonitis, it's crucial to rest immediately and seek medical attention from a healthcare professional like a podiatrist.
- Perform stretching exercises
- Do not start a high-intensity exercise immediately
- Strengthen your lower legs
- Wear the right shoes
- Try to mix high-intensity exercises with low-intensity ones (Cross-train method)
3: Stress Fractures
During stress fractures, foot bones develop small cracks due to repetitive stress and exercises.
Athletes who increase their training intensity too quickly or participate in activities that place excessive pressure on the feet without proper rest are more susceptible to stress fractures.
Symptoms of a stress fracture include:
- Pain and tenderness around the affected area
- Difficulty bearing weight on the foot
If left untreated, these tiny cracks can eventually lead to larger breaks that require surgery.
- Eat a balanced diet containing Calcium and Vitamin D
- Don't wear worn-out footwear
- Incorporate strength training into your workout routine
- Start high-intensity exercises gradually
- Do not ignore the signs of pain in your foot
4: Shin Splints
Shin splints occur when the muscles and tendons around the tibia become overstressed due to overuse or repetitive impact. This can cause small tears in the tissue, leading to inflammation and pain.
Symptoms of shin splints include:
- Tenderness along the shinbone
- Pain along shinbone
- A dull ache that worsens during exercise
Remember that ignoring symptoms of shin splints can lead to more serious problems such as stress fractures - so listen to your body!
- Stretch your calf muscles
- Strengthening exercises for your foot
- Avoid exercising on hard surfaces
- Wear athletic shoes
- Maintain a healthy weight
5: Sever's Disease
It is a common sports-related injury primarily affecting young athletes during their growth spurt years. This condition involves swelling of the growth plate in the heel bone.
Common causes of Sever's disease include tightness in calf muscles, stress on the Achilles tendon, and repetitive exercises.
These are the common symptoms of Sever's disease:
- Heel pain
- Pain during exercise
- Limping or difficulty walking
- Swelling and tenderness in the heel
- Stiffness and reduced range of motion
It's important for young athletes experiencing these symptoms to consult a healthcare professional for an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment.
- Try stretching exercises
- Avoid running on a hard floor
- Put ice on the heel after exercise
- Wear shoes with shock-absorbing qualities
The Takeaway Message!
Injuries are, unfortunately, a common occurrence in sports. However, by taking the necessary precautions and being aware of the signs and symptoms of foot injuries, young athletes can help prevent them from occurring or worsening. It is important to remember that rest and proper treatment are crucial for healing any kind of injury.
So let's prioritize foot health in young athletes today!
Petraglia, F., Ramazzina, I., & Costantino, C. (2017). Plantar fasciitis in athletes: diagnostic and treatment strategies. A systematic review. Muscles, ligaments and tendons journal, 7(1), 107–118.
Mayer, S. W., Joyner, P. W., Almekinders, L. C., & Parekh, S. G. (2014). Stress fractures of the foot and ankle in athletes. Sports Health, 6(6), 481–491.
Reid, I. R., & Bolland, M. J. (2020). Calcium and/or Vitamin D Supplementation for the Prevention of Fragility Fractures: Who Needs It? Nutrients, 12(4), 1011.