Opening Day is just a few weeks away! (March 29, to be exact.) Although it’s been a rough couple of years for the Reds, hope never dies—and who knows? With Joey Votto leading the way on offense and a little bit more health and consistency with the pitching staff, there’s always a chance, right?
Of course, the pros aren’t the only ones gearing up for (or already in the thick of) a new season. The college baseball and softball seasons are already a month old. Little League took off early this month, while our high school athletes officially begin play the weekend before the Reds do.
We do love our baseball here. But regardless of whether you play in front of crowds of adoring fans, or just play for fun, it’s important to be safe and avoid foot and ankle injuries as much as possible. Although you can never guarantee you won’t get hurt, you usually can reduce your risk by making smart decisions about equipment, training, and play.
Common Baseball and Softball Injuries
Injuries associated with baseball and softball are something we see and treat frequently, including those on the following (partial) list.
Ankle sprains. Sprains can happen to any player on the field in almost any situation. You might slip when rounding the bases, taking an unexpected tumble while fielding a grounder, or even after an awkward slide into second.
It’s important to note that there are actually several different types of sprains. While a “lateral” sprain on the outside of the ankle is the most common, sprains can also occur on the inside (medial) and above (“high ankle sprain”) the joint. No matter what type of sprain you sustain, however, you should always see a foot specialist right away for treatment. Otherwise, you risk developing chronic pain and instability.
Foot fractures. Chronic stress fractures may develop over the course of a long season due to overuse. However, traumatic fractures are usually a more significant concern. These are generally caused by a high-impact collision from sliding, or even fouling a ball straight into your foot.
Please note that sometimes broken ankles are misidentified as merely sprains. In fact, when both a sprain and break occur during the same injury, the symptoms of the sprain may “hide” the more serious damage underneath. This is another reason you should never take chances with ankle injuries and always seek immediate treatment.
Heel and arch pain. Catchers are at especially high risk for developing arch pain, given the difficult crouching stance. However, injuries to the heels and arches (such as plantar fasciitis or Achilles tendinitis) can occur in any player due to overtraining.
Toe and toenail injuries. Running, wearing cleats that are too small, or fouling a ball off your foot can lead to jams, stubs, bruised toenails (subungual hematoma), or ingrown toenails. Catchers are again more at risk due to their position and stance. Pitchers are as well, due to the amount of torque on the front of the foot while delivering the pitch.
Injury Prevention Strategies
If you want to avoid a painful foot or ankle problem scuttling a promising season (not to mention making your entire life much more difficult for a few weeks or months), remember to take good care of yourself.
Slow and steady training. If you’re just emerging from your winter hibernation, don’t throw yourself back into the game with gusto. Start slow and build up your pre-season training gradually. This gives your body time to adjust and reduces injury risk.
You should also learn and practice proper mechanics for fielding, batting, pitching, and especially sliding. Sliding technique is especially important, since this is one of the most dangerous regular activities performed in a baseball game. Talk with your coach if you aren’t comfortable or aren’t sure you’re doing it correctly.
Equip yourself properly. Get a good, comfortable pair of baseball or softball cleats that fit your feet properly. (Don’t try to get away with re-using your cleats from another sport; they won’t give you the support or protection you need.) You might also consider additional aids, such as:
- Shin guards to protect your legs at the plate
- An ankle brace to stabilize a wobbly or injury-prone ankle
- Knee savers to help with strain if you’re a catcher
- Custom orthotics to cushion and support feet while you play
Don’t shrug off treatment. The natural inclination of almost every athlete? Keep playing until your foot is literally about to fall off. Or, get back on the field as soon as the pain becomes remotely bearable again.
Suppress those instincts and listen to your body! The best way to avoid making a bad situation worse is to seek out professional treatment as soon as possible, then wait until you’re fully healed to make a return. Trying to play through the pain or shrug off your recovery instructions will only increase your risk of developing chronic struggles.
Don’t worry—we know how much you love playing, and we’ve got your back. We treat athletes of all ages every day, and our foremost goal is getting you back in the game as quickly as possible. From innovative conservative treatments to advanced surgical procedures, our team can offer comprehensive treatment options for almost any type of foot and ankle injury—and tailor our approach to meet your needs.
To schedule an appointment with us at one of our six convenient locations—including one in Kentucky—please call us toll free at (888) 689-3317.