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The beneficial effects of sports activity on the heart and lungs and overall conditioning are well documented. So are the positive mental effects. Yet, sports activities demand much of the body's stamina and agility. Many parts of the body undergo considerable stress during play. Feet, which provide all-important mobility, are high on this overworked list!

Neither serious athletes nor "weekend" athletes can fully avoid an injury list that includes ankle sprains, pulled muscles and ligaments, tendinitis, stress fractures, blackened toenails, bone bruises, calluses, blisters and others.

But there are some good habits and practices that both serious and recreational athletes can take to avoid or minimise injury.

DO'S

  1. Do specific flexibility and warm-up exercises, including those for your feet and ankles, prior to your sport. Muscle and tendon injuries may result from insufficient flexibility or lack of warm-ups before running or activity. Stretching before play is a must, and stretching after activity will make you feel less stiff the next day.

    Before playing, warm-up by jogging a short distance, walking briskly, jumping rope, riding a stationary bike, or running in one place for a few minutes. Your muscles will then be ready to begin gentle stretching. Use a sustained stretch (as in yoga). After your sport, "cooling down" with gentle stretching and exercising is also better for you.

  2. Strengthen surrounding muscles (the ones that aren't used much in your sport), to prevent injuries, and muscle imbalance. In running for example, the front thigh muscles and the front leg muscles often need strengthening.
  3. Powder your feet and shoes. This will absorb moisture, reduce friction and lessen the chance of a fungus infection. Convenient, cool and drying foot sprays are now available.
  4. Wear wool socks, cotton-wool blends or one of the newer semi-synthetic athletic socks that wick moisture away from your feet. These let the feet breathe more easily. Avoid 100-per-cent cotton socks. Change your socks after activity.
  5. If you have a blister or a friction problem, use Vaseline and gauze. Wearing thick and cushioned socks designed for your sport or two thinner layers of socks may help prevent blisters and add comfort. (If it is a water blister, clean with antiseptic solution, puncture with sterile needle to let water out, and leave skin on, as the skin acts as a protection. Then cover with gauze and tape.) Moleskin may be placed over the gauze for added comfort. Try to assess and correct the cause, which may be tight shoes, foot imbalances, etc.
  6. Always use the right shoe for the right sport, as shoes are designed with function in mind. For example, don't wear running shoes to play tennis; wear a court shoe.

DON'T'S

  1. Don't try to "work through" foot or ankle pain. Stop and evaluate the problem and do seek medical attention.
  2. Don't attempt to do "too much too soon." Build up your level or duration of activity gradually to strengthen your foot and ankle muscles to handle the pressure exerted on them.
  3. Never take pills to mask foot pain - seek professional attention to treat the cause of the problem.
  4. Don't attempt a 100-per-cent workout if you are just back from a layoff or foot or ankle injury. Restoration of flexibility and muscle strength takes time.

IN CASE OF INJURIES

Remember "RICE"! Injuries should be treated as soon as possible after they have occurred. Use the principles of RICE, which stands for rest, ice, compression and elevation.

  • Rest the injured area.
  • Apply crushed ice packs to the injured area immediately after the injury has occurred (A bag of frozen peas works nicely, too.)
  • Secure snugly with 6-inch elastic bandage for compression.
  • Elevate the injured part above the level of the heart.
  • Remove ice pack after 10 minutes and rewrap with elastic bandage.
  • Repeat icing procedure every one to two hours as needed.
  • If pain and swelling persist beyond 24 to 48 hours, seek professional attention. Also, do not neglect minor injuries or try to "play through" an injury as this can result in further disability and a longer lay-off may result.

Injuries such as a possible fracture, tendon rupture or ankle sprain require immediate emergency care.

PREVENTION

Many foot problems can be aggravated by sports. Inflammation, stress and strain won't necessarily mean one has to stop playing altogether. A proper assessment and appropriate treatment by a suitably qualified person may pave the way to pain-free playing.

Acute injuries are not always the cause of problems. Nor are shoes always the cause of foot problems.

Often a foot imbalance will result in overuse or "wear and tear," leading to problems. Calluses, tendinitis, sore areas, or any continual foot pain may mean that you have a structural imbalance of the bones of the feet. A visit to a Practitioner can help treat the injury and prevent it from progressing . You may be able to get back into your sport sooner than you think! Neglecting a problem however, often results in increased damage and further disability.

BE PREPARED!

Participation in sports requires the acceptance of the possible risk of injury. However, the incidence and severity of injury can be kept at a minimum by a number of precautions: developing endurance, strength, flexibility and agility by physical training and having the best protective equipment. As far as the feet and legs are concerned, prevention is the key to comfort.

Contact Us

mapTrekeek Foot Health Clinic, Trekeek Farm, Camelford, Cornwall, PL32 9UB

map01840 213054