We all know that there are many benefits to children participating in sporting programs. These benefits include improved cardiovascular and musculoskeletal health, learning skills such as teamwork, self-discipline, and healthy habits that can last a lifetime.
But in order to enjoy ongoing participation in sports, it’s important to think about how we can best prevent injuries from occurring. Here are a few tips from the Entire Podiatry team on how to reduce the risk of sports-related foot injuries in your child:
1. Encourage a variety of activities
Especially in the early years, there is an increased risk of foot and ankle injuries if a child concentrates too heavily on a single sport. It is best if early training activities develop proper technique and movement skills across a range of sports, particularly in children under the age of 10.
Repetitive overuse injuries are more likely if there is a heavy focus on a single sport. Repetitive overuse can cause inflammation of the growth plates, which do not finish closing until a child is 13 to 17 years of age. When stressed, these growth plates are more susceptible to injury than the tendons and ligaments that support the joints.
Warming up before participating in sports helps to loosen the muscles and prevent injuries in athletes of all ages. Light jogging and smooth stretching exercises are all that’s necessary for young athletes. Learning to stretch at an early age helps to set a good pattern for sports activities into the future.
3. Choose well-fitting footwear
For good foot health the condition and fit of a shoe is much more important than the price tag or brand name. Even the most expensive shoe, if it doesn’t fit right, will not adequately support your child’s feet and help to prevent foot and ankle injuries.
Here are some tips for choosing sports shoes for your child:
- Shop for shoes in the afternoon, when your child’s feet will be naturally slightly swollen. (This helps reduce the chance of purchasing shoes that may end up being too tight).
- In the store, make sure your child tries on both shoes, with sports socks on and the laces tied tight. Try the shoes for several minutes to properly check the fit.
- When fitting shoes, allow at least one finger’s width from the end of the longest toe.
- Consider purchasing two pairs of shoes rather than a single pair, so the shoes can be rotated to avoid rapid wear deterioration.
- In young children, an “all-purpose” sports shoe works well for most sports. A running-specific shoe is not recommended for “all-purpose” use as side-to-side movement is more difficult, which increases injury risk in children.
If you have any concerns about your child’s feet or would like further advice on how to prevent sports-related foot injuries, contact your nearest clinic or Freecall 1800-4-ENTIRE (that’s 1800-4-368473). Appointments are also available online across Brisbane, Moreton Bay, Logan and on the Gold Coast.