Tackling Back-to-School Athletes’ Foot and Ankle Problems

Preparation is everything when it comes to any school season. This is especially important when it comes to preventing or early detection of a sports injury or other foot problems in a child athlete.

A good scouting report is a big advantage for a coach. This article is a parent’s scouting report for foot and ankle problems. 

There is plenty you can do to reduce the risk of a foot or ankle injury in your school sports star. Any good coach will tell you that the possibility of defeat is always there. It’s also valuable to know what types of problems exist, what it will look like, and when to see us about them. That way, the impact of a problem can be minimized and your child can get back into action.

A Wide World of Sports Injuries (and Other Problems)

School-aged children are certainly not invincible just because they’re young. Besides the typical adult sports injuries, there are specific problems associated with growing up. (We’re not talking about the kind you find in a John Hughes movies).

Additionally, not all problems arise from taking a hard hit or fall. Let’s take a closer look at some of sports-related misfortunes.

Overuse Injuries

Consider training as basically a controlled injury. An overuse injury occurs when the body is pushed harder than it can heal. Think of it as a balance scale (teeter totter). When training is greater than healing over time, the scale tips towards an overuse injury. This can happen from a combination of increased intensity, duration, or decrease in healing time.

Due to that gradual nature, we tend to see more overuse injuries in the weeks and months after a season has started. Watch for increasing or lingering pain, discomfort, and/or fatigue. This may be a sign that your young athlete is in an overuse danger zone. That’s worth contacting us about.

A few types of overuse injuries to watch for include:

  • Shin Splints – Also known as tibial stress syndrome. This is a very common cause of pain in the lower leg. There are two types of shin splints and they have similar symptoms but come from    two different causes. 
  • Heel Pain – Much like in adults, children’s heel pain can arise from the plantar fascia. Children ages 8-14 may also suffer from Sever’s disease (aka calcaneal apophysitis). This is an injury to a developing growth plate at the base of the heel bone. The growth plate becomes inflamed from a tight Achilles complex and pronation.
  • Stress Fractures – This is like bending a metal coat hanger over and over. Stress fractures develop in a bone that eventually weaken it to a point of failure. This is a sure sign that your child will need future changes to their workout/practice routines and better support for the foot.

Traumatic Injuries

Some of these injuries are more traumatic for the parent than the child. When you see your child go down with an injury it will make your heart momentarily stop. But not all traumatic injuries are major, “carted off the field” moments. Many are not as dramatic but still require proper attention, nevertheless.

NEVER insist that a child keep playing immediately following a traumatic injury. That is often a straight ticket to causing further damage. This will extend recovery time at best and cause further complications at worst.

  • Ankle Sprains – One of the most common injuries is an ankle sprain. This can be a mild injury or a severe problem that’s difficult to tell apart from a fracture. Even what appears to be a mild ankle sprain in a child may lead to chronic pain and other problems in adulthood. A simple rehab program will allow the quickest healing time. All ankle sprains in a developing foot should ideally receive advice from a professional.
  • Broken Toes – A toe fracture is another one of those problems that should receive professional advice. The treatment may be as simple as immobilization and letting it heal on its own. Our blog here goes into the topic of fractures a little deeper.
  • Turf Toe – A painful sprain of the big toe joint can occur when the toe is firmly planted but the rest of the foot is forced to bend forward. This motion will hyperextend the joint. This could involve joint or growth plate damage in a kid. 

Epiphyseal Ankle Injury – Like the growth plate in the heel, the end of the tibia also has growth plates that are vulnerable to injury. An injury at the end of the tibia near the ankle can allow the growth plate to slide forward. This can be especially painful and relocation must be performed as soon as possible.  

Non-Injuries (but Still Problems)

Student-athletes can also run into problems that affect them (or other members of their family).

  • Ingrown Toenails – A pesky ingrown toenail can develop at the most inopportune times. It may be something that kids will try to hide for fear of not being able to play. It may also be because they feel treatment will be painful. Ingrown nails are usually from a wide nail. If nail irritation happens at an early age, it is not from shoes. The cause is that they were born with nails that curve inward. Either way, we can help them find lasting relief!
  • Foot Odor – This is one that is likely to affect you more than them. Unfortunately, adolescence can exacerbate problems with foot odor. There are some ways you may be able to curb that unpleasant aroma. Our blog here has some advice. 
  • Plantar Warts – Warts are most common in kids. Rarely do they present in adults. We have two videos on plantar warts you can peruse: Treating Plantar Warts and Are You a Worry Wart?

Expert Treatment and Expert Prevention for Your Child

If a sports injury or other problem does arise, never hesitate to call Your Go To Foot Doc. We not only have the tools and expertise to provide fast and effective treatment (getting your child back in the game sooner and safer), but we can also pinpoint and address factors that may be contributing to a higher risk of problems (such as flat feet, excessive sweating, improper footwear, etc.).

Schedule an appointment at our Indianapolis office by phone or by filling out our online contact form. We’ll be happy to see you.


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    Indianapolis, IN 46216

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