Ask The Experts
Foot and ankle injuries: Protecting young athletes
By Ker’Shyra Myrick
With all the running, jumping, pivoting, and stopping and starting young basketball players do during games, injuries to the feet and ankles are going to happen.
We caught up with Dr. Charlton Woodly, owner of Woodly Foot & Ankle Specialists in Texas, to get his insight on what volunteer coaches and parents of young athletes need to know to help prevent foot and ankle injuries; and treat them when they do occur. Check out what he had to say:
SPORTINGKID LIVE: What are the most common foot injuries young basketball players between the ages of 10 and 14 suffer?
WOODLY: The most common injury that I see is an ankle sprain, which is a result of athletes not wearing the proper footwear that does not give enough support in the ankle area. I do not recommend any brand over the other because there are so many different types of shoes athletes can wear. But I do advise that athletes, especially basketball players, wear shoes that are not flat and support the ankle.
SPORTINGKID LIVE: What should volunteer basketball coaches be doing to help prevent some of these injuries?
WOODLY: Stretching is key and should be done before and after practice. Also, if an athlete tells you they are in pain, do not ignore them. All coaches should be cognizant of your athlete and know what is going on with them. Sometimes athletes do not let the coach know that they are hurting.
SPORTINGKID LIVE: What’s a common mistake coaches and parents make when it comes to young athletes and injuries to their feet?
WOODLY: Athletes tend to think that only putting ice on the injury is okay. If you only put ice on the area that is hurt or injured, and you are ignoring the pain, it will only get worse. If an athlete continues to play on a minor fracture, that can turn into a displaced fracture, which is more serious. There is a difference in being injured and hurt. Athletes, coaches and parents should not ignore either. Young athletes should not play if they are hurt. Coaches and parents need to find out why an athlete may be hurting, but that does not necessarily mean they cannot play. Addressing the situation sooner rather than later can help reduce the risk of athletes injuring themselves even more.
SPORTINGKID LIVE: When young players sustain sprains and strains what is the typical recovery time?
WOODLY: Everybody is different, but I have a rule: With a mild sprain, the recovery time should be three to six weeks. One of the things that I see a lot of, especially in that age group from 10 to around 13, is pain in the Achilles heel area. A young athlete may say, ‘My heel started hurting but I didn't do anything to it.’ This is something called Sever's disease, which is inflammation of the growth plate. It is important that parents and coaches be on the lookout for this.
SPORTINGKID LIVE: We see NBA players putting their feet in buckets of ice after games and practices – what should young players be doing afterward to help protect their feet?
WOODLY: Being preventative and taking steps to improve performance is paramount, but if a player stretches before and after practice, especially young athletes who are still growing, they have a better chance of preventing injuries.
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