many sports enthusiasts, making contact is what real competition
is all about. Youth football is an integral part of American
culture, and the Super Bowl is the most watched annual event
which fills huge stadiums the world over, is among the most
popular youth sports in the United States. Other contact sports
like lacrosse, from Native American tradition, and British
rugby have become popular as well.
these sports require miles of running -- with quick stops
and starts -- per game. Competition is usually on grass fields,
which "give" so players may change direction quickly. It also
provides a soft landing surface on which to crash.
are inevitable in contact sports. The lower extremities --
an athlete's steering, accelerator, and braking systems--
are particularly susceptible. But with proper conditioning,
equipment, and technique, competitors in contact sports have
successful, healthy playing seasons.
physicicans, specialists in care of the lower extremity, not
only treat injuries athletes and get them back into competition
as soon as safely possible, but also help athletes get into
a condition that minimizes their risk of injury to the foot
time a football, soccer, or lacrosse player spends in an actual
game represents only a tiny fraction of time spent in practice,
conditioning for competition. Practice involves hours of running,
repetitive drills, and scrimmages every day.
conditioning excercises in practice will strenghthen and improve
flexibility in the lower extremity, the repeated stress of
practice may bring on chronic, or "overuse" injuries. These
injuries can nag at a player and hamper, if not end, a season
injuries also come from faulty biomechanics of the feet --
how the lower extremity physically adjusts to the ground.
If an athlete has "flat" feet, which tend to pronate (out-toe)
or excessively high arches, which often supinate (in-toe),
extensive running and cutting can produce chronically strained
taking the practice field, it's wise to be examined by a podiatric
physician specializing in sports medicine, who will identify
any biomechanical abnormalities that increase the chance of
injury. The podiatrist may recommend specific excercises to
strengthen and improve flexibility of the foot and ankle,
or recommend taping or padding of the foot or ankle before
practice and competition. A podiatrist may also prescribe
orthoses, customized shoe inserts that correct biomechanical
problems by redistributing the body's weight.
physicians say proper stretching and warmup before and after
home workouts, practice, and before games go far to prevent
overuse injuries to the supporting structures of the lower
extremity. Warm-up and cool-down exercises should take 5-10
minutes and should be conducted in a stretch/hold/relax pattern,
without any bouncing or pulling. When muscles are properly
warmed up, the strain on muscles, tendons, and joints is reduced.
Bumps and Bruises
players, who today more than ever combine size with speed,
experience high-impact collision on virtually every play.
Lacrosse players "check" much like hockey players, but wear
thin pads on the arms and shoulders. Rugby players wear no
padding at all. Though technically soccer is not a contact
sport, players of any age will tell you that high speed collisions,
kicks in the shin, and body contact happens all the time.
foot and ankle bear the brunt of the crashes, bumps, and bruises
of contacts sports. Feet get stepped on, kicked, jammed, twisted,
and cut. Quick changes in direction and hard tackling can
lead to sprains and fractures of the ankle.
or "trauma injuries are more serious than overuse injuries,
and require recovery time away from the practice and game
field. Immediate treatment should include the "RICE" formula:
Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation.
injuries should always be treated by a medical professional
such as a podiatrist, and be fully healed before returning
to the field. Players who lie about how an injury feels, or
take pain-killers to play through a trauma injury, are not
helping their team by doing so, but rather putting themselves
in danger of aggravated or permanent injury.
are the footwear of choice for all contacts sports down to
the youth leagues. Cleats are generally safe for young ankles,
say podiatrists. Cleats should be light and flexibile, and
always fit properly. Uppers should be supple (no hand-me-downs,
please), and there should be, and at least a finger's width
should separate the tip of the big toe and the end of the
shoe. Laces should be tight.
shopping for cleats, wear the same style of socks you intend
to wear in competition. Shop in the afternoon, when the feet
are naturally slightly swollen. Investing in proper footwear
for a young athlete is much less expensive than medical treatment
sports are sometimes played on artificial turf, which presents
a new set of concerns for an athlete. Some surfaces simulate
the texture of grass, and others are little more than carpet.
All forms of artificial surface are harder than grass, and
make for speeded-up competition. Cross-training shoes or sneakers
are the footwear of choice on artificial turf.
the surfaces do not "give" like grass, playing on them may
be more hazardous to the lower extremity. Players should be
well-familiarized with the dynamics of running and changing
direction on "turf" before competing on that surface.
and physicians frequently tape the feet and ankles of their
players for added stability, especially on artificial turf.
Proper taping can help prevent injuries from occurring, and
keep a minor injury from becoming a major one.
the lower extremity healthy is so important to an athlete
that most all professional football and soccer teams have
a team podiatrists, who treats minor problems like corns,
calluses, and blisters, to major injuries like fractures and
dislocations. These are the most common injuries suffered
in contact sports:
Toe. Turf toe is a painful jam or hyperextension of the
big toe. The condition is more common on artificial turf,
but can happen on grass as well. Immediate treatment includes
the RICE regimen, and wearing a stiffer shoe prevents aggravation
of the injury. Splinting the toe or special orthoses can also
Sprains. Making contact on a firmly planted ankle can
forcibly invert the joint and damage ligaments, resulting
in a sprain. Immediate treatment using the RICE formula to
reduce swelling is important to quick healing. Any sprain
that doesn't show improvement in three days should be checked
by a podiatric or family physician.
Fractures. There are two distinct kinds of fractures
that require vastly different treatment. Stress fractures
are incomplete cracks in bone caused by overuse. Stress fractures
heal with complete rest. Extra padding in shoes helps prevent
Fractures are more serious injuries that require immediate
medical attention. Casting and sometimes surgery is required
to immobilize fractures and set breaks. Requiring 10-12 weeks
for rehabilitation, a fracture or a break essentially ends
a season of competition in any contact sport.
American Podiatric Medical Association operates a toll-free
telephone service, 1-800-FOOTCARE (1-800-366-8227),
from which consumers can obtain informative literature on
a variety of foot health topics. The American Academy of Podiatric
Sports Medicine, an affiliate of APMA, may be reached at 1-800-438-3355.
in cooperation with the American Academy of Podiatric Sports