It’s now fall and soccer season is in full swing! Soccer is a very popular sport in our Southern Tier region, but the constant running associated with it places excessive stress on a developing foot. So now is the time for parents and coaches to think twice before coaxing young, injury-prone soccer players to “play through” foot and ankle pain.
Parents and coaches are often not aware of how serious an injury could be. When the kids continue to play with pain, they can’t give their team 100 percent and could make their injuries even worse, which will eventually prolong their time out of soccer.
Kids are skeletally immature, and the movements of starting/stopping and moving side to side on cleats, that are little more than moccasins with spikes, can create a recipe for foot and ankle sprains and worse, especially for the growth plate areas of growing bones.
- Kids will often play with lingering, nagging heel pain that, upon testing, can turn out to be a stress fracture. Stress fractures can be subtle – they don’t always show up on initial x-rays. Often they are not visible on x-ray for at least 14 days after the injury occurs.
- Symptoms of stress fractures include pain during normal activity, even just walking and also when touching the area, and swelling of the area, without any sign of bruising.
- Treatment of stress fractures usually involves rest and reduced activity and sometimes immobilization for a period of time without weight on the foot, and even sometimes casting.
- Some stress fractures can heal poorly and may require surgery, such as a break in the elongated bone near the little toe, the 5th metatarsal, known as a Jones fracture.
- The growth plates can also become inflamed (apophysitis) and this can cause pain as well. Kids’ growth plates are still open and bones are still growing and maturing – until they’re about 13 to 16 years of age. Treatment for apophysitis involves rest and in some cases, immobilization of the foot, and often physical therapy treatments too.
- Other types of overuse injuries are Achilles tendonitis and plantar fasciitis (heel pain caused by inflammation of the tissue extending from the heel to the toes). Both of these injuries can be complicated by inflamed growth plate of the heel (Sever’s Disease)
- Ankle sprains are also common to the sport of soccer. Ankle sprains should be evaluated by a physician to assess the extent of the injury. If the ankle stays swollen for days and is painful to walk or even stand on, it could be a fracture, a torn tendon or ligaments.
- Collisions between soccer players also take their toll on toes. When two feet are coming at the ball simultaneously, that ball turns into cement block and goes nowhere. The weakest point in that transaction is usually a foot, and broken toes can be the result. The toes swell up so much the player can’t get a shoe on, which is a good sign for young athletes and their parents: If they are having trouble just getting a shoe on, they shouldn’t play.
So parents and coaches, be aware and thoughtful before saying to your players or kids, “No pain, No gain!” That pain may be a warning sign of a more serious injury…
For further information about various foot conditions and sports injuries, contact Dr. Marilyn Boyuka at Southern Tier Podiatry or visit www.FootHealthFacts.org, sponsored by the American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons.