Every fall season, foot and ankle surgeons see an increase in ankle injuries among young athletes. Football, soccer and basketball are the sports most likely to lead to sprains, broken bones and other problems.
If your children are playing sports this fall, here are six tips that could protect them from serious ankle injuries:
- Get ankle injuries treated right away. What seems like a sprain is not always a sprain; in addition to cartilage injuries, your son or daughter might have injured other bones in the foot without knowing it. Have a qualified doctor examine the injury. The sooner rehabilitation starts, the sooner long-term problems like instability or arthritis can be prevented and the sooner your child can get back into competition.
- Have old sprains checked by a doctor before the season starts. A medical checkup can reveal whether your child’s previously injured ankle might be vulnerable to sprains and could possibly benefit from wearing a supportive ankle brace during competition.
- Buy the right shoe for the sport. Different sports require different shoe gear. Players should not mix baseball cleats with football shoes.
- Children should start the season with new shoes. Old shoes can wear down like a car tire and become uneven on the bottom, causing the ankle to tilt because the foot cannot lie flat.
- Check playing fields for dips, divots and holes. Most sports-related ankle sprains are caused by jumping and running on uneven surfaces. That is why some surgeons recommend that parents walk the field, especially when children compete in nonprofessional settings like public parks, for spots that could catch a player’s foot and throw them to the ground. Alert coaching officials to any irregularities.
- Encourage stretching and warmup exercises. Calf stretches and light jogging before competition help warm up ligaments and blood vessels, reducing the risk for ankle injuries.