Olympic Sports Foot Injuries
Injuries to the foot and ankle are common in gymnastics. Acute injuries are usually sprains which can be minor or more serious. Swelling, bruising and tenderness directly over the bones are signs of a more serious injury. Minor injuries typically have tenderness limited to one side of the joint without significant swelling. Serious injuries require evaluation by a qualified professional while return to participation after a minor injury is often possible within a week if there is no pain (or limping) with weight bearing activity. Protection with taping or a brace can aid recovery and reduce the risk for re-injury. Chronic ankle pain or repeated injuries are worrisome and require evaluation before continuing with participation.
Prevention – Many gymnastics injuries can be prevented by following proper training guidelines, using safety equipment, and incorporating the following tips:
Wear all required safety gear whenever competing or training — special equipment may include wrist guards, hand grips, footwear, ankle or elbow braces, and pads
Do not “play through the pain” — if you are hurt, see your doctor and follow instructions for treatment and recovery fully
Make sure first aid is available at all competitions and practices
Inspect equipment to ensure that it is in good condition, including padded floors, secured mats under every apparatus, and safety harnesses for learning difficult moves
Insist on spotters when learning new skills
Warm up muscles with light aerobic exercise, such as jumping jacks or running in place, before beginning training or new activities
Swimming – Olympic Sports Foot Injuries
“Most people understand the importance of strong and healthy feet for runners or any athlete who spends a lot of time pounding their feet on the ground,” said Daniel Altchuler, DPM, president of the California Podiatric Medical Association. “However, few immediately think of the very important role feet play in swimming. You really can’t swim with an injured foot.”
Feet are important because they help propel the body through the water. It is important for swimmers to have good flexibility in their ankles for a wider range of motion and propulsion. The motion of the foot in both freestyle and backstroke is extension and flexion in a flutter kick. In the butterfly, the foot flexes and extends also, but in unison, which is why it is referred to as a dolphin kick. In the breaststroke, the kick involvesrotation at the ankle as well as flexing and extending the foot.
Strong, healthy feet are also important for swimmers to get a fast start off the blocks and for pushing off the walls during turns. Competitive swimmers agree that races are often won or lost based on the speed and power of the start and turn.
One of the most common foot problems swimmers face is cramping in the feet. Foot cramps during swimming are usually caused by excessive pointing of the toes. Swimmers should properly warm up and gently stretch their feet before starting a workout, as well as relax their feet during the stroke.
The most common foot and ankle injury is tendonitis on the top of the foot and rear ankle, caused by repeated toe pointing in kicking. Treatment includes stretch and rest through pullbuoy use. Pull-bouys are placed between the thighs to allow arm only propulsion while the body is buoyant.
Another common problem for swimmers’ feet is infection such as athlete’s foot and toenail fungus. Other problems include foot contusions or “swimmer’s heel,” mild ankle sprains from improper flip-turn technique and slipping on wet pool decks.
Prevention – To maintain healthy feet, swimmers should do the following:
- Do gentle stretches to warm up feet before entering the water.
- Wear shoes on the pool deck to reduce the risk of foot injury and contacting fungi.
- Dry feet thoroughly after swimming or showering.
- Apply talcum powder or medicinal spray to previously infected areas to prevent recurrence.
- Change and wash socks frequently.
- Try not to wear the same pair of shoes two days in a row.
Look for more foot and ankle injury prevention for Olympic sports in tomorrow’s blog…