Individual and team sports are great activities for children to experience teamwork, boost endurance, and enjoy exercise! However, participating in sports can increase the likelihood of a lower limb injury either by accident or overuse. Immediate treatment of any foot or ankle injury in children is essential, and if left untreated, it could turn into a long-term problem complicated by growth and age. To help keep your little one safe while playing sports, we've highlighted three common youth sports injuries and how to prevent, treat, and manage them.
Like bone fractures that break entirely through the bone, stress fractures appear as cracks along the surface of a bone. These fractures form over time due to repetitive impacts on the foot, such as running or activity drills. Placing frequent and excessive pressure on the bones without proper recovery time may cause the bone to degrade and form cracks. As a result, children with stress fractures may feel mild pain and tenderness that grows worse over time.
An untreated stress fracture has a high risk of becoming a complete break, which is more painful and difficult to heal. Treatment of a stress fracture requires rest and a break from all hard-impact activities to allow the bone to heal. While your child is taking some time off their feet, icing the affected area can help decrease inflammation around the bone.
If a child is experiencing heel pain, they may be suffering from Sever's Disease. This condition, also known as apophysitis, is an inflammation of the growth plate in the heel bone. During development, the feet often grow faster than the rest of the body. Between the ages of 8-14, the feet can develop faster than the tendons and ligaments attached to them, causing stress to those structures. In addition, the Achilles may pull tightly on the heel bone, potentially aggravating the vulnerable growth plate. Repetitive hard impacts and pressure on the Achilles and heel bone from sports or other activities inflame the plate even more.
Children will outgrow Sever's Disease, but they will still require treatment to alleviate pain and ensure their feet develop properly. In addition, your child will need to take a break from any activity that causes discomfort, including sports. They may also need to change their everyday shoes to a style that provides more shock absorption in the cushion or the sole. Consider custom orthotics designed to fit your child's exact needs for the best recovery results.
In addition to lifestyle adjustments, consider physical therapy that includes stretching the tight Achille's tendon and icing painful areas on the back of the foot to alleviate some inflammation. If the pain is persistent, visit your podiatrist as soon as possible.
Another injury prevalent in active children is an ankle sprain, which is an injury in the ligaments connecting bones to the joint. The ligament keeps the joint from moving too far but can be overextended and even torn. Symptoms of an ankle sprain include pain, swelling, bruising, stiffness, and trouble bearing weight on the ankle.
Ankle Sprains can be deceptively simple because the child may not feel significant pain when putting weight on the foot in mild cases, causing it to heal improperly. Over time this can cause chronic ankle instability. To avoid this and promote proper healing, we recommend the R.I.C.E. Method for milder sprains: Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation. In addition, your child will need to take a break from high-impact sports, and you may need a brace or wrap to stabilize the ankle while it heals.
Children may not always be able to communicate their pain, especially when they are younger. If your ordinarily active and energetic child is no longer running, jumping, and playing, as usual, something may be wrong. Any foot pain is not normal, and seeing a podiatrist for any pain is essential for proper recovery. While it is never fun to take a break from sports, giving your little one time to heal will help them avoid further complications and get back to the games they love with healthy feet! If your child is experiencing lower limb complications, call (717) 757-3537 or fill out our online contact form to schedule an appointment.