Many children suffer from mild “torsional” imbalances, commonly known as in-toeing and out-toeing. Most children outgrow these imbalances without medical treatment. However, if a child has obvious torsional imbalances, he or she may be more susceptible to injury. If that is the case, keep a close eye out for foot and ankle injuries associated with sports activity. Foot injuries commonly seen in very active children include:
Ankle Sprains. In older children, stretched or torn ligaments in the ankle, known as sprains, are more common than fractures. A sprain may cause extensive swelling around the ankle just like a fracture. Immediate treatment is crucial to quick healing. A podiatric physician can provide treatment as well as recommend balancing and strengthening exercises to restore coordination quickly.
Fractures. Fractures from overuse in child-athletes are commonly seen in podiatric medical offices. Growth plates are particularly susceptible to injuries, but mid-shaft fractures of the bone also occur. If a fracture is not severe, rest and immobilization may be the best treatment. More complicated injuries may require casting or surgical correction. If swelling and pain persist, see a podiatric physician.
Sever’s Disease. An inflammation of a growth plate, Sever’s Disease is often felt as pain behind the heel caused by inflammation of the apophysis, a growth center where a tendon is attached to the bone. Rest, ice, and heel lifts are usually prescribed.
Shin splints and stress fractures. Shin splints are microtears or inflammation of the anterior leg muscles, as are Achilles tendon pulls in the posterior region of the leg. Again, rest is most important in healing these injuries. If pain is persistent, see a podiatrist, who can recommend strengthening exercises, certain shoes, or, if indicated, prescribe custom-made shoe inserts known as orthoses.
All parents want to see their children do well in sports. But putting too much pressure on a child to become a star athlete may result in both physical and emotional injury to the child. A child should enjoy playing a sport, but if forced, could be turned away from all sports for a lifetime.
Especially with individual sports such as swimming, figure skating, and gymnastics that require long hours of practice every day, be certain the child’s heart is in the endeavor, not just yours. When it comes to sports, overzealous parents can potentially do their children more harm than good.