Common Foot & Ankle Injuries In Young Athletes
As a parent, you want to protect your children – primarily as they pursue hobbies like organized sports. Injuries do happen, but there are things you can stay aware of and help your child avoid, so you don’t have an injured student-athlete on your hands.
If your child begins complaining of foot pain, they may be suffering from tendonitis, plantar fasciitis, a stress fracture, or some other form of heel pain. Pediatric heel pain doesn’t get better with continued use like adult heel pain – it needs rest. This means that your football player or track star may need to take a time out for a few weeks – following their physician’s directions.
One of the differences between regular heel pain and something more serious is how quickly the onset of your child’s discomfort occurs. If their pain is mild and has slowly gotten worse over time, they may just be experiencing foot pain from overuse and will recover fairly quickly with some rest and ice.
If they have a sudden onset of foot or ankle pain, particularly immediately after practice, and appear to be limping or unable to bear full weight on one foot – they may have an ankle or foot sprain. Ankle sprains usually happen after a child ‘rolls’ the ankle. Here are some things you should remember about ankle sprains:
- 10% of young athlete injuries reported in the ER are ankle sprains
- 83% of these ankle sprains are ligament sprains with incomplete tears
- 90% of ankle sprains are due to poor playing field conditions or improper footwear
What To Do If Your Child Has An Ankle Sprain
The first thing you want to do is have your child’s ankle sprain assessed for its severity. Generally, there are three degrees of severity when it comes to ankle sprains – each one requiring a different level of medical intervention.
First Degree Sprain
The ankle tissue is only stretched. Your child may experience slight swelling in the ankle and foot, mild loss of range of motion, and strength but should have no decrease in ankle stability. They should be able to bear most, if not all, of their weight on foot – it should only feel sore.
In most circumstances, a few days’ rest and ice + elevation will help your child recover. You may not even need to visit a doctor, but you can, if only for your peace of mind. Bear in mind ankle sprains has better long-term outcomes if addressed early.
Second Degree Sprain
With this type of sprain, you may see some slight tearing of ankle tissue as it stretches beyond its limits. You will likely see moderate swelling around the foot and ankle, noticeable loss in the joint’s range of motion and strength, and some decreases in the ankle’s stability. Your child may not necessarily need crutches but will likely be limping away from the field.
Although it’s perfectly acceptable to bring your student-athlete in for a checkup in the event of a First Degree Sprain, you should bring them in if you suspect a Second Degree Sprain for assessment and treatment recommendations. It may be that an X-Ray is necessary to rule out a more severe condition.
Third Degree Sprain
This degree of a sprain involves complete tearing of the involved ankle ligaments. You will see significant swelling and visible bruising at the injury site soon after the injury occurs. Your child will have a near-complete loss of their range of motion in the ankle, will not be able to bear much weight, if any at all, and will experience a marked decrease in instability.
When you notice these symptoms, it’s essential to get your student-athlete to a medical professional as soon as possible for assessment and treatment. Usually, such a severe sprain is obvious when it happens. However, it is always safe to have your child checked out professionally; Do not hesitate to do so. An early professional analysis is never a bad idea.
Our team at Warner Orthopedics & Wellness is here for you and every member of your family. While we treat injuries, we can also advise you and your child on the right types of shoes to wear on the field and recommend ankle and leg-strengthening exercises, so the likelihood that they will experience a sprained ankle or a different kind of sports-related injury is reduced. We can measure the range of motion, strength, and other parameters of your student-athlete and create precise and personal routines to help prevent future injuries.
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