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How to Prevent Foot Injuries in Sports

The human foot is a complicated arrangement of twenty-six bones, held in alignment and able to move by way of ligaments, joints, tendons, and muscles.

The function of the foot is to support us when we are standing, and to absorb the shock transmitted when we walk, run or jump. Bearing in mind the loads and stresses our feet are subjected to, it is not surprising that they can get injured, particularly when playing sports that involve speed, jumping, fast turns, and quick stops.

Injuries to the feet can be chronic, caused by overuse, extended stress, and repetitive motion, or acute, when there is a sudden trauma. Nearly all overuse injuries are due to an abnormal way the foot lands on the ground.

Proper equipment

Perhaps the most important thing to do to try to avoid a foot injury is to wear shoes properly fitted to your individual foot and gait, and appropriate to your particular sport. Find a specialist athletic shoe store with knowledgeable staff. Be prepared to replace your shoes every 300-500 miles if you are a runner, or whenever the tread is worn out or the heels are worn down. Worn out shoes donít provide adequate support, donít absorb shock, and donít provide traction, so place you at an increased risk of injury.

Consider wearing a semi-rigid ankle brace while playing sports such as soccer or basketball, especially if you have been previously injured.

Warm up, stretch, play, and stretch

Warm muscle fibers are less likely to tear. Stretching before playing a sport improves the ability of muscles to contract and extend, reducing the risk of damage to the fibers. Stretching after play helps prevent the muscles tightening up and becoming more liable to tear. If you are stiff from a previous sports session, go especially carefully, warm up properly, stretch well, and donít play hard.

Some stretches to incorporate into your regular routine are calf stretches, calf drops, and heel cord stretches.

Listen to your body

Soreness, aching or pain is a sign that you are injured. Your body is telling you to stop and allow yourself time to heal. Donít play through any pain, no matter how minor, as doing so will only make your injury worse and possibly set up a chronic condition that in the long run might limit your participation in sports.

Go slow

Donít try to do too much, too soon, too fast. Build up your playing or training time gradually, especially if you are starting a new sport, and avoid any sudden leaps in mileage or intensity. Aim for a maximum weekly increase of 3 percent to 5 percent. If you increase your playing, increase your resting time. Give your body adequate time to recover.

Get in shape

Exercising to strengthen core, hip, and leg muscles will help prevent all injuries, not just to the foot. Taking a day a week off from your regular sports program and doing a different sport instead is beneficial, as is alternating a hard workout with an easier one.

Proper technique

Learning and practicing the proper technique for your sport will reduce the risk of injury. Take care not to play above your ability level, and if youíve had to take some time off from playing, donít expect to immediately return to your previous level of activity. Build up gradually.

Whatís under your feet?

A soft surface is less likely to cause injuries to your feet than a hard or uneven surface. Check for any obstructions or hazards as landing badly on rocks or debris could land you with an injury .

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