Preventing sports injuries to your feet and ankles is a lot like preventing a loss to an opposing team – you’ll have a much better shot if you know what you’re getting into and what your weaknesses are.
While there is no way to reduce the risk of an injury to absolute zero, there are certain choices and behaviors that can have a significant impact on your chances. Keeping them in mind can help you stay in action without a sports injury tripping you up. In some cases, they can even help your overall performance.
But first, let’s start with the basics. How do sports injuries happen?
Causes of Sports Injuries
Broadly defined, there are two main types of sports injuries:
- Acute traumas, which are likely the kind most think of first. These happen when a sudden force or impact causes immediate damage of some sort. The source does not always have to come from a tackle or similar hit, but can also be from a fall or a poor landing. Sprains and many fractures are typical acute traumas.
- Overuse injuries, which tend to have their consequences develop over time. This type of sports injury occurs when your body is forced beyond its levels of endurance and natural recovery. This can cause soft tissues to become strained and torn, or bone to develop hairline “stress fractures” along the surface. Overuse injuries can be the result of pushing yourself too hard all at once, or by forcing yourself through repetitive impacts without enough rest time.
While you may not always have a huge amount of control over acute traumas, overuse injuries are often much more avoidable. Just keeping in mind they can occur is already a positive step in the right direction.
Quick Tips for Reducing Sports Injury Risk
You do not have to be a pro performer to reduce your risk of sports injuries. The best thing you can be is consistent, whether you’re performing your everyday workout routine or just playing a fun pick-up game on the weekend.
Here are some good sports injury prevention habits to keep in mind.
Wear the Right Gear (Including Shoes!)
Sports equipment was made to protect your body from the demands of the activity, and that very much includes the shoes you wear.
The footwear you use should always be designed for the type of activity you’re doing. If you are running, wear running shoes. If you are playing basketball, use basketball shoes. The right shoes are designed to provide better support and cushioning where you need it most, whether your feet are facing repetitive impacts against pavement or quick lateral motions and pivoting.
And, of course, whatever footwear you use should fit properly and still be in good condition. Poorly fitting and worn-out shoes will never help you, no matter what kind they are.
Stretch Out and Warm Up
Taking time to stretch and warm up before engaging in a workout or other higher-intensity activity can help prepare your feet and ankles for the paces you are about to put them through.
While some static stretching can help your calf muscles and Achilles tendons warm up (helping to reduce risks of Achilles tendinitis and plantar fasciitis), make sure to invest some of your warm-up time into dynamic movements like light jogging and lunges as well.
Never stretch in a way that causes pain. We can also discuss specific warm-ups and exercises with you that may be best suited for your individual needs.
Committing to just one activity all the time, such as running, can increase your risk of an overuse injury. Adding new activities to a workout plan can not only provide some necessary rest for certain areas of your body, but help your overall performance as well.
Both strength and endurance conditioning are important, and a workout plan that mixes them both will always be worth it. Just remember to provide your body the time it needs to rest.
Focus on Your Technique
When it comes to physical activity, form is essential to function.
Developing and following proper technique for any exercise or sport can help you avoid a sports injury by reducing the number of situations that can put your body at higher risk. Every time you jump, pivot, or shift with improper technique could potentially lead to pain.
If you are ever unsure you are performing a motion correctly, be sure to consult with an expert.
Don’t Overextend Yourself
Seeking to improve yourself is always a great goal however, focusing on getting the results you want too quickly can easily start you down the path to overuse.
Be patient with your progress. Begin at a low level relative to your ability and gradually increase your intensity about 10-15% each week. That could mean an increase in time, weight, or distance.
Try not to blindly follow a plan of increases like this, either. If you ever reach a point where the work feels like too much for you, never hesitate to dial it back. When your body is trying to tell you something important, listen! It’s always better to work up to your goals slowly than to have an injury hold you back even longer.
Treat Sports Injuries Quickly and Effectively
Letting a painful sports injury linger without proper treatment – or even worse, trying to ignore it – will always increase the risk of the injury becoming more severe or leading to chronic trouble.
The experts at Midwest Podiatry Centers can help you get back to action as quickly and as safely as possible, with expert diagnosis and treatments ranging from traditional methods to advanced tools such as laser therapy.
Schedule an appointment with us by calling (612) 788-8778 or by filling out our online contact form.