Accidents — and foot and ankle injuries — happen. Whether you’re a weekend warrior or a professional athlete, you can sprain an ankle, tear an Achilles tendon or fracture a foot.
Erik Eller, M.D., a orthopedic surgeon and foot and ankle specialist with Henry Ford Health, says many common injuries related to athletics are preventable. “Some foot and ankle injuries are pure happenstance, such as a collision during a game. But there are steps people can take to help prevent foot and ankle injuries, especially during sports or activities.”
Preventing Sports-Related Foot And Ankle Injuries
These eight tips can help prevent injury and keep you on your feet:
- Make sure the shoe fits the activity. When it comes to sports, the right tool for the job includes gearing up with the proper shoes. Choose footwear designed for your sport. Take special care to ensure the right level of support and the appropriate sole for the surface you’ll be playing on.
- Stretch it out. It’s no stretch to say that stretching can help prevent foot and ankle injury. “Most Achilles tendon injuries or ankle sprains occur from deconditioning or not being appropriately stretched out,” says Dr. Eller. Make sure your warmup regimen includes stretching to improve flexibility and range of motion. Never stretch in a way that causes ankle pain, foot pain or other kinds of discomfort.
- Up your conditioning game. Stay strong. Strengthen the muscles in your legs, feet and ankles with strength training exercises. This will help stabilize your ankle joint and improve balance, which can help safeguard against sprained ankles.
- Work on technique. Knowing the right way to jump, land, dive, pivot and more can keep you from getting sidelined due to injury. Listen to your coach or other experts for pointers on using the right body mechanics.
- Fuel up. “Other than ankle sprain, fractures are among the most common foot and ankle injuries, and nutrition can play a role,” says Dr. Eller. Proper nutrition can help prevent deficiencies, such as a lack of vitamin D, which may make bones more prone to stress fractures. Talk to your doctor about a nutrition plan that’s right for you.
- Mix things up. Cross-training does more than make you a better athlete. It can also prevent injury caused by overuse and repetition. Practice makes perfect, but mixing it up with other activities can prevent problems associated with overtraining.
- Know yourself. Certain medical conditions can make you more vulnerable to injury. For those with specific conditions or a history of injury, Dr. Eller recommends following doctor’s orders. Your provider can offer personalized advice regarding conditioning and support. By being more aware of movements, impact and risky situations, ankle and foot injuries are less likely to occur.
- Listen to your body. “People often have symptoms that signal the onset of injury,” says Dr. Eller. “If you have foot or ankle pain with activity, don’t put off seeing a doctor.”
By taking steps like these, you can be sure to put your best foot forward.
Dr. Erik Eller is an orthopedic surgeon and foot and ankle specialist who sees patients at the Henry Ford Center for Athletic Medicine in Detroit and Henry Ford West Bloomfield Hospital in West Bloomfield.