Friday Night Lights: Protect Feet in Football
Football season has returned to Texas! If you’re a fan, you’re looking forward to getting those action-packed weekends back: high schools on Friday, college on Saturday, pros on Sunday. If you’ve got a child playing under the Friday night lights, the excitement is especially high. That said, due to the grueling and physical nature of the sport, you’re going to want to do everything you can to help them prevent an unnecessary foot and ankle injury.
The incidence rates are higher than you might think. A study a few years back from the American Journal of Orthopedics found that anywhere from 9% to 39% of college players will suffer at least a minor foot or ankle injury in a given year. “Skill” players like running backs and wide receivers, as well as offensive linemen, are especially susceptible given the amount of force and torque their lower limbs must sustain. The most common injuries are ankle sprains and Achilles tendon injuries, with turf toe, metatarsal fractures, muscle strains, cramps, and other problems not too far behind.
How can you help your youth athlete protect their feet? Here are a few tips:
- Don’t skimp on gear. As with any other shoes, you want your cleats to fit properly (snug but not too restrictive) throughout, with enough wiggle room for toes and plenty of cushioning and support. Beyond that, look for mid-cut or high-cut collars, which may do a better job of protecting your ankles. You may consider playing with a lace-up ankle brace if you have a history of sprains or recurrent injury in the past.
- Always warm up and cool down. Cold muscles are more injury-prone, so take a few minutes to warm them up and stretch them out beforehand. When practice of the game is over, slowly cooling down and stretching again helps prevent the build-up of toxins in the muscles.
- Drink lots of water. Even mild dehydration can throw off concentration, body temperature regulation, and athletic performance. This greatly increases the risk of an accidental, preventable injury.
- Stay fit—but don’t over-train. Going into the season already in shape helps avoid those “too much too soon” injuries like tendon ruptures. At the same time, though, aggressive and high-impact exercise and practice too many times per week will cause injury, too. Tell your child to listen to their body and take a break if significant discomfort develops.
Of course, even when parents and kids take precautions, there are some measures that the school must be responsible for. Quality playing field conditions, on-site and licensed athletic trainers and medical personnel, and coaches who understand the limits of young athletes and are trained to recognize and prevent serious injuries are major assets for injury prevention. If you feel that your school is not doing enough to protect the health of its student athletes, speak up!
We hope that you have a safe, enjoyable football season! If you or your young athlete do experience any troubles with your feet or ankles, make sure you schedule a time to see the team at Dallas Podiatry Works. Quick treatment is the key to getting back on the field as soon as possible. Give us a call today at (888) 716-5283.
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