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With Footballers in Mind

Two weekends ago, I had a really great time; I got to mix football with sightseeing and liming. For anyone who knows me, I can’t kick a ball; don’t have a sporty bone in my body; but I love the game. I attended an International Masters Football Tournament in Barbados, for participants over 40 and 50 years old . A number of these players have an extensive football history, including professional league experience. However, based on observation, it was realised that in many instances, both the individual and club weren’t fully prepared for eventualities; can’t blame them though, as I was looking at it through professional eyes.

For each discipline you are involved in, those body parts are essential to your level of performance. The lower limbs and feet are a footballer’s tools; however, the question is, do they take proper care of them? A footballer needs to make sure these body parts are of the best quality and working correctly, to ensure that they can play properly. If you take care of your feet, in return, your feet will take care of you. Minor foot problems or injuries can become a much bigger problem if neglected.

How Playing Football impacts the Foot

Football can place a great deal of stress on the foot; the more you play, the higher the stress. There can be a lot of friction involved, particularly when playing on certain surfaces. Football boots can also be quite stressful on the feet, especially as some players wear a tight fit for better ball control. So it’s not uncommon for a footballer to suffer with pressure points, corns, callus, or damaged/ingrown toenails as a result of football boots.

Foot Maintenance

Prevention is always better than cure. Support your feet whenever you can, not only when playing but as much as possible. Toenails should always be kept to a good length, cut straight across and not too short. You would not want to miss an important game due to an ingrowing toenail.

Good foot hygiene is essential to prevent a number of foot problems such as bacterial, fungal or viral infection. These can appear minor but can result in complications leading to pain and even missed training sessions and matches. Footballers often neglect their flexibility, which can be important in keeping a good posture, maintaining a wide range of motion at all joints and preventing injury. You can experience excruciating heel pain due to extremely tight hamstrings or calves. Once this flexibility is increased with a stretching programme, posture improves and problems can be resolved. Sometimes prescribed insoles/ orthoses are also needed to support the feet. Having good balance and awareness are essential for football. This can be improved by increasing the communication between the feet and the nervous system (brain). This is referred to as ‘proprioception’ and can be improved with the use of orthoses for those with flat feet.

Proper Gear

A good, well-fitting pair of football boots is essential. There shouldn’t be any signs of pressure on the foot after a game or training session. A pair of flip flops is recommended if using communal changing areas and showers, as this can aid in preventing picking up any infections that can cause unnecessary problems.

Other Helpful Tips for Better Foot Care

  • Change socks daily

Very critical, as athlete’s foot is quite common in footballers. Make sure between the toes are dried properly after a bath.

  • Moisturise your feet

Dry skin can lead to cracks, a portal for infection. Also, if  you have calluses, it is worse when you don’t moisturise.

  • Use a Foot File, get a Pedicure

When your feet are dry, and the skin isn’t too tender, you should use a foot file to remove the layer of dead skin and reduce the build-up of calluses. As well, get a pedicure done; for those with the misconception that it’s a “woman thing”… it is not. Try it, you would actually enjoy it.

  • Do Massages

It is so important to do regular massages as a sport person. It helps to relax the muscles.

 

Recommendations for ‘Must Haves’

  • Medication for pain management, one that has an anti-inflammatory or muscle relaxer component to it is ideal.
  • Local analgesic spray to help ease or numb pain.
  • Kinesiology tape, as it is a staple in helping with injuries.
  • Bandage for wrapping injured area if necessary.
  • Ice and plastic bags for icing immediately after an injury.
  • Electrical therapy to stimulate the nerves and muscles.
  • A footballer should have a team; GP, podiatrist, physiotherapist, massage therapist and pedicurist.

When to Check a Podiatrist

Once participating in football and you start to feel pain in the foot, ankle or heel, seek the advice of a podiatrist sooner, rather than later. People tend to persevere with pain, thinking that it will go away. There is a big difference between muscular aches from a hard session and pain that reoccurs after every training session or game, or even pain that is gradually getting worse. In these situations, it is best to consult a podiatrist. Any signs of pressure such as redness, blisters, hard skin or extra bone developing (osteophytic formation), definitely needs assessing by a professional. Areas to check are around the back of the heel, the toes and the base of the big toe joint.

Your feet mirror your general health . . . cherish them!

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