by Health Tip

Foot pain in the young athlete is a common problem encountered in all sports. Many injuries are unique to certain sports, whereas others are seen in all types of activity, especially those involving running. Injuries may involve bones, ligaments, tendons, or other soft tissue structures in the foot.

What to Do When an Athlete Has a Foot Injury

If you suspect that your young athlete has a fracture, he or she should be evaluated by medical personnel immediately. For most other injuries, try rest, ice, compression (ACE wrap, etc), and elevation. If no improvement is seen within two to three days and the athlete has a limp, swelling, or difficulties doing normal activities, he or she should be evaluated to rule out a more serious injury.

Treatment and Return to Play

Each type of foot injury has a specific treatment. Your doctor will begin this once the diagnosis is made. Your doctor may need to refer you to a sports medicine specialist or orthopedic surgeon for further evaluation and treatment. In general, athletes can safely return to their activities when they are able to pass the “5-step test,” which can be done quickly and easily in the doctor’s office. The athlete must be able to (1) walk/run with full range of motion, (2) walk on “tiptoes” without pain, (3) hop on both feet without pain, (4) hop on the affected foot without pain, and (5) show satisfactory balance while performing a single-leg stance on affected side. Although the athlete may not be fully recovered at this point, passing these simple tests usually indicates that the athlete can safely and effectively return to play.

Prevention of Foot Injuries

Many types of injuries can be prevented from returning in the future. Here are a few tips:

  • Stretch before activity.
  • Wear properly fitting footwear.
  • Wear the right running shoe. Spend time in a running specialty store and ask for help from a salesperson who understands running.
  • Replace shoes every 300 to 400 miles. Even though they may look in good condition, the midsole will have lost its support and cushion.

Source: American Academy of Pediatrics