How to Protect Your Child’s Feet from Sports Injuries
Childhood and teen years tend to be one of the most physically active times in a person’s life. From an early age, most kids develop an eagerness to run, race, throw, kick, and chase down soccer balls with reckless abandon. Many of them continue to play as they get older, joining school or travel teams and dedicating more time and energy to practice and training.
Sports participation offers many physical and psychological benefits to children, from improving general health and fitness to instilling teamwork, perseverance, dedication, and resilience. However, it also exposes them to the risk of injury. Ankle sprains and broken bones are probably the ones you might think of, but we’ve also seen an increase in “overuse” injuries such as heel pain and stress fractures, too.
Parents can help children protect their feet against injury by using the following strategies:
- Get them appropriate shoes. A child who engages regularly in specific sports should be wearing shoes (or cleats, or skates) designed specifically for that sport. The sizing and fit have to be right, too, and because kids’ feet can grow fast you may need to size up later in the season. We strongly discourage the use of hand-me-downs: you might save a few bucks up front, but used shoes that have already “conformed” to someone else’s feet can cause pain and injury when worn by others.
- Encourage them to try a variety of sports or activities. Your child may be particularly passionate about one specific sport, for example soccer. However, performing the same motions over and over can weaken certain physical structures while exposing others to overuse. Instead of playing the same sport year round, encourage them to take breaks, try other sports, and engage in some low-impact recreational activities.
- At the same time, don’t overload them. Many kids try to play on two or even three teams at the same time during the same season. These may be in different sports, or the same sport. However, this dramatically increases the risk of overuse injury.
- Encourage them not to ignore what their bodies are telling them. No child wants to leave the field or let their teammates down. However, pain is a sign that something is wrong, and children who try to push through it can wind up with severe injuries. Ideally your child will take the proper precautions and remove themselves from the game when they hurt. However, you may have to rely on your own eyes or your child’s coach to recognize the signs of injury and put your child’s health first.
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