In some houses, it’s never too soon to start thinking about the upcoming high school football season (if they ever stopped thinking about it in the first place!).
Whether you have an Eagle, a Firebird, a Thunderhawk, or a player on the multitudes of other teams in our region, you can probably already feel the crisp air of an autumn evening under the lights.
And, as your friendly area podiatry practice, we want all players to be feeling at their best as they play. That means avoiding potentially painful and sidelining foot and ankle injuries.
Football is a high-impact sport all around, but the potential for foot and ankle injuries can sometimes get overlooked. Yet with the right preparation and considerations, you can help reduce the risk of a problem developing on or off the field.
Make Sure Cleats Meet the Need
The right equipment makes a huge difference. Cleats that don’t provide the right amount of protection and support can contribute to anything from blisters and ingrown toenails to turf toe and ankle sprains.
When selecting cleats, make sure they fit snugly in the heel area and have at least a half-inch from the tip of the longest toe to the end of the front of the shoe. If they do not feel relatively comfortable at the store, don’t buy them and expect to “break them in.” That’s just asking for pain.
What specific parts of cleats will be best for you will determine on elements such as your play style and position on the team. Cleats may be best in a specific pattern for your running style, or you might want to opt for detachable spikes to configure yourself. Whether you want a high or low cut around the ankle will also depend on your needs. These are best discussed with a trained professional.
One other big element to consider, however, is foot shape and gait. If your footwear does not properly support abnormalities in gait (such as overpronation) or foot shape (such as high arches), the risk of heel pain and injuries on the field can increase. We can help you determine what qualities in cleats would be the best for these situations. Sometimes, an orthotic insert may be recommended for additional support.
Warm Up Before You Get Moving
While this is often a solid part of any official practice (or at least it should be!), make sure to warm up nicely before engaging in any sort of strenuous activity. This can even include a pickup game in the backyard!
A warm-up involving stretching and some light, dynamic movements (like jogging) can loosen tight muscles and ligaments, preparing them for the paces you’re about to put them through. This not only helps reduce the chances of injury; it makes you more comfortable and responsive during your activity, too!
Ankle rotations and toe lifts are always good stretches in the lower area, but don’t neglect calf stretches as well. Tight calves can place additional strain on your heel, which can contribute to conditions such as plantar fasciitis.
Don’t Skip “Fast Feet” Drills
A huge part of the game is being in control of your movement. If you’re trying to make your feet and ankles react faster than they are conditioned to go, it’s a recipe for trouble.
“Fast feet” drills such as agility ladders and balance board work are great for building rhythm, balance, and coordination. This is great for your core stability and proprioception (your awareness of where your body is in the world). More precision and more control will help you avoid sprains.
Know the Terrain
It’s difficult to avoid uneven ground on a football field, especially if it’s getting muddy, but a sudden, unexpected bump or hole can be a painful surprise.
If you have the opportunity, take a once-over of the field to look for any potential problem areas. This rings valid whether you’re on a regulation field or down at the park. Make sure officials are aware of potential trouble—they might be able to do something about it before the game if they’re not already aware of it.
Keep Previous Injuries in Mind
If severe sprains or Achilles tendon problems have been part of the past, they might still have at least some effect in the present.
Athletes who have had past injuries are more susceptible to the same injury. That’s why specific conditioning, and sometimes the use of foot or ankle braces, may be recommended to help build strength and support against a recurring injury.
If you have questions about how previous injuries might affect performance, please do not hesitate to ask us—especially if we did not treat this condition in the past. Having your full history provides an important level of knowledge to make better informed recommendations.
Go All the Way this Season!
No matter how the season goes from team to team, we wish all players fun and safe play!
And if a sports injury does happen to strike, contact us right away. We have the expert diagnosis and treatments to help get players back into the game as quickly—but safely—as possible. We can’t guarantee you’ll never miss a game, but following our advice can help prevent future and worse problems down the field.
Our offices in Cincinnati, Bridgetown, Eastgate, Fairfield, Hamilton, and Florence are open to see you. Call us at (888) 689-3317 or fill out our online contact form to reach out to any of them!