As athletes, especially young ones, when an injury occurs, you can view things such as your sporting ambitions fading before your eyes. This is not at all the case in some instances. However, if treatment is not sought, or explored within a suitable timeframe, full rehabilitation on injuries may not occur.
Athletic children who play through the pain, ignore injuries, cut rehab short, or skip it altogether, could face repeated injuries. As well, instability in their feet and ankles could go well into their teen years and adulthood. Long-term problems can include osteoarthritis and chronic ankle instability. People with untreated chronic ankle instability may suffer activity limitations, arthritis and tendon problems.
Some surgeons say with more children playing high-level competitive sports, like gymnastics, tennis, soccer, volleyball, track and field, even golf, they are treating serious foot and ankle injuries in increasingly younger patients. More and more treatment is required for chronic heel injuries in preteen athletes. When the level of competition intensifies, so do the stresses on the feet and ankles, and ultimately injuries.
Injuries treated include high-level sprains, bruises to ankle bones responsible for transferring weight from the leg to the foot, sesamoid fractures, neuromas, and heel injuries. Many injured children can avoid surgery. Instead, their orthopaedic surgeon will often immobilise the foot for a period of time, followed by aggressive physical therapy.
Coaches and parents should seek prompt medical care for children who injure their feet playing sports and other activities. With the diagnostic tools currently available to specialists, and knowledge of the demands of the child’s sport, a determination can be made on whether surgery’s necessary; in many cases, it can be avoided altogether.
Field Sports Injuries on the Rise for Children
Overuse and lack of proper equipment elevate risk for pain and injury. Holiday time brings longer days, and for many children, lots of outdoor activity. Parents and coaches who increased participation in outdoor sports, can also increase the number of foot and ankle injuries, particularly for children who play field sports.
Ankle sprains alone account for approximately 10 percent of all injuries seen in emergency departments. Parents and coaches need to educate themselves on the signs of foot and ankle injuries, and to seek treatment early. Among the most popular recreational activities are field sports. Included are flag football, lacrosse, field hockey, soccer, baseball and softball— sports that often require the use of rubber-molded cleats, and in some cases, metal screw-on spikes.
Children under the age of 10 are at special risk for sports injuries, especially when cleats are involved. Apart from creating imbalances that could result in ankle sprains, continuous running in a cleated shoe can injure and inflame the growth plate in the heel. In turn, a painful condition called Calcaneal Apophysitis can result, which can be extremely slow to heal, and in extreme cases, may require surgical intervention.
Overuse injuries, like stress fractures, are also a major risk factor for younger athletes, as bones are still growing. Parents and coaches are advised to be alert to a child limping on and off the field, and to never encourage children to play through pain. Parents should watch for symptoms of common sport injuries, including pain during normal activity, swelling, bruising, and in more serious cases, tissue tears.
A Winning Strategy: Don’t Play Through Pain
Timely treatment and rehabilitation are key to proper healing. Sometimes athletes can be their own worst enemy, especially when they continue to play following an injury to the foot or ankle. To ensure proper recovery from an injury, athletes should seek a proper diagnosis, prompt treatment, full healing, and rehabilitation.
Athletes often misunderstand how serious an injury can be, and try to rush back into competition, without appropriate treatment and rehabilitation. Some of the most difficult cases seen are those in which athletes have continued to play after an injury. They often make the mistake of ignoring what seems like a minor foot or ankle injury, because they are able to walk. Serious injuries can exist even when the foot or ankle is able to accept weight or pressure.
One such injury involves the Lisfranc joint, on the top of the foot. It is possible to walk with a Lisfranc injury, but this can lead to damage to the soft tissues of the foot, or even chronic conditions, such as arthritis. Sometimes, the pain of this injury is mistaken for an ankle sprain, but treatment for the two conditions is very different.
Another injury that may be overlooked, is a fracture of the fifth metatarsal, the bone that runs along the outer side of the foot. This can accompany an ankle sprain, or the athlete may think it is a sprain. However, this injury is difficult to heal, and continuing to participate in sports will make it worse. Playing with pain is never a good strategy for athletes. Prompt treatment is. A specialist can determine the best course of treatment for the specific injury and help get athletes back into the game.
Your feet mirror your general health . . . cherish them!