4 Sunny Tips for Avoiding Springtime Sports Injuries

by David Guhl, DPM

The arrival of spring can mean different things to different people. For many, though, it means a prime opportunity to break out of the house and start enjoying outdoor activities again!

Spring, however, also tends to be a time when sports injuries become more prevalent. Whether you are getting out to run more and pursue your own personal activities, or joining a rec league for baseball or soccer, we hate to see our patients’ excitement dashed by a foot or ankle injury right out of the gate.

While we are always here to provide prompt and effective care for any sports injuries that may come your way, we’d rather you prevent such problems in the first place! While it’s nearly impossible to avoid every potential sports injury that may come your way, taking a reasoned and proactive approach to your activities can greatly reduce your risk of trouble – and even help you recover faster if and when an injury strikes.

Pace Yourself Properly

One of the reasons why sports injuries can be more common in spring – especially in Wisconsin – is that our eagerness to get outside may cause us to exercise more intensely than our bodies are conditioned to endure after a long and more sedentary winter. 

The more you push yourself beyond your current limits, the more you’re likely to hurt yourself. This is true no matter your age!

Even if you are familiar with the activity you’re jumping back into, still give yourself some leeway and start off slower. Let your body adjust. Work your way upward at no more than 10-15% added intensity per week (you can measure this in time, distance, or weight, depending on the activity). 

And if your child is starting to practice for a sport, it can help to ensure that the coach has a plan to build intensity up gradually, too. The majority of sports-related injuries don’t occur during the games themselves, but during the practice sessions.

Wear the Right Equipment for the Job

Different activities place different demands on the feet and ankles. Running, for example, puts the feet through long periods of repetitive impacts, while sports like basketball and tennis focus on quick pivots and side-to-side motions.

Athletic shoes are manufactured with these needs in mind, providing greater cushioning and support when repetitive impacts are concerned, or more upper stability if your ankles are getting more of a workout. Wearing the right kind of shoes for your activity will help protect your feet and ankles where it counts most.

But just having any old pair of the right shoes isn’t enough. They also must fit well and not be so worn down that their supportive measures are gone.

Additionally, spend time in new shoes before using them for your main activities whenever possible. That way, you can get a good feel for whether they’re right for you before making an uncomfortable discovery during the middle of a game or run.

Keep Track of Technique

Proper technique helps ensure that weight is being evenly distributed across the feet and ankles. Placing too much pressure where it shouldn’t be can lead to conditions such as sprains and Achilles tendinitis.

Form and technique are easier to gauge from the outside, such as when you are looking at your children. And if you do notice a sudden change in your child’s technique, such as favoring one foot more than another, it could be a sign that something is wrong.

Also, try to remain conscious of your own form. It’s easy to slip up and fall out of good form in your own exercise without even realizing it. Remaining conscious of how you are holding yourself can not only help reduce injury risk, but also help you get more out of your repetitions as well.

Good technique also includes framing your workouts with a good warm-up and cool-down, so don’t forget them!

React Immediately to Pain

If something starts to hurt, don’t wait until the game or workout ends to do something about it. Your body is trying to tell you to stop, and it pays well to listen.

Pushing yourself through pain and other symptoms will increase your risk of worsening the problem, which often means a longer recovery time. Stop as soon as you can and remember the RICE protocol for initial treatment:

  • REST. Take weight off the affected foot or ankle.
  • ICE. Apply ice or a cold compress for 15-20 minutes several times per day (but always wrap the source of cold in a thin towel).
  • COMPRESS. Wrap the affected area if you are comfortable doing so, or if someone knowledgeable can do it for you. (If not, this step can be skipped.)
  • ELEVATE. Keep the affected area above the level of your heart. This helps reduce swelling.

Never be afraid to contact us regarding any type of foot or ankle sports injury you may have experienced. Even something that seems as minor as a sprain can become trouble if it doesn’t heal properly. If you suspect anything out of the ordinary, or symptoms don’t improve after a couple days of basic treatment, it is definitely time to give us a call.

We’ll Keep the Spring in Your Step

We know a sports injury can be disappointing any time of the year, but our mission is always to get our patients back to the activities they love as quickly and as safely as possible. Giving yourself enough time and proper care now can give you much more time for active enjoyment in the future.

Schedule an appointment with us by calling (262) 544-0700 or by filling out our online contact form. We also have telemedicine appointments available if you wish to have an initial consultation with us from the comfort of your own home.