For various reasons, baseball still holds the title of “America’s pastime.” Sure, NFL viewership had been steadily climbing until last season, the NBA has an abundance of young and talented players, and the NHL is definitely still around – but baseball enjoys several advantages over those other sports.
One such advantage is its rich history. Founded in 1869, the MLB has been around longer than the other professional leagues, and by a good margin. Another is the unique experiences offered at every major league stadium.
Of course, not all baseball happens at the big league level!
Baseball and softball are popular sports, ones played by millions of people of all ages – not only here in our home country, but also around the world.
Just about any sport comes with a certain degree of risk for foot and ankle injuries, and baseball and softball are no exceptions to this general rule.
Since there are so many ballplayers from all ages, backgrounds, and walks of life, numerous foot and ankle injuries are sustained on the diamond or in the outfield.
Some of the most common injuries people sustain while playing the game include ones like shin splints, fractures, sprains, and heel pain.
Shin splints are sharp pain running along one of the lower leg bones. In this area, there is a long, thin muscle that can become injured when it’s too tight or suffers from overuse. Sometimes, dehydration can also play a role in this highly common injury. Fortunately, proper stretching prior to activity can help reduce the risk for developing shin splints.
Bones can fracture when sustaining force loads from physically traumatic events. An example of this would be a hard-hit ball striking a foot and fracturing a metatarsal bone. The good news in this regard is that fractures aren’t nearly as common in baseball and softball as you might expect (on account of the relative hardness of the balls and the speed at which they are hit and thrown).
Ankle sprains are simply a common injury for the majority of sports (and life in general). When running in the outfield, on the base paths, or sliding into a base, it can be rather easy to twist a foot beyond its intended range.
When heel pain develops in response to sports like baseball and softball, it can be attributed to injuries like Achilles tendinitis, plantar fasciitis, and Sever’s disease:
- If your heel pain is strongest during and immediately following athletic activity—and you really feel it in the back of the heel—Achilles tendinitis is the likely diagnosis.
- If your heel pain is strongest in the morning (particularly with the first steps of the day) and you can feel a sharp pain in the bottom of your rearfoot, you probably have a case of plantar fasciitis.
- In the event it is your preteen or adolescent son or daughter who is experiencing heel pain either during or after a game (or practice), Sever’s disease is the most likely explanation.
Sports injuries aren’t necessarily a lot of fun, but we have good news to report in regard to them. First, a vast majority are effectively resolved without needing surgery. Second, certain preventative measures can be used to lower the risk of foot and ankle injuries from happening in the first place.
As we look at baseball injury prevention, you will want to keep the following tips in mind:
- Ease into the sport. If you are older than 40 years old—and especially if you are diabetic, smoke regularly, and have a physical disability—be sure to see your primary care physician to identify any potential health risks. Further, if you have existing foot problems, come to Austin Foot and Ankle Specialists for a gait analysis and professional recommendations.
- Wear the right shoes. When playing a sport like baseball or softball (or soccer), running shoes are not enough. Whereas a decent pair of running shoes offers ample support and cushioning, athletes in these sports need cleated footwear. With that being the case, youth should not be wearing shoes featuring steel spikes – molded cleats are the way to go.
- Warm up and stretch. As with any sporting activity, it is imperative you prepare your body for intense physical exertion. Take time for jogging or light running, stretch your lower (and upper) limbs, and play catch a bit before the game.
- Wear shoes that fit. Shoe fit is an important health and safety concern for any sport. Yes, it is imperative to wear activity-appropriate footwear, but fit makes a big difference. In this case, you need to especially be aware of the fact that cleated shoes more often squash toes together in the front. As much as possible, there needs to be a bit more room in the toe box area. At the same time, the longest toe should be roughly a thumb’s width (and no more) from the front of the shoe. When laced, the heel needs to be comfortably cradled, and the foot unable to easily slide around inside.
- Use proper sliding techniques. It can be exciting to try and beat a “tag out” by sliding into the base or across home plate, but make sure your child listens to coaches when they instruct the correct way to do so. If you are playing in a rec league and have never been coached in proper technique, take some time to watch videos and read information on how to slide in a safe manner.
- Follow doctor’s orders. In the event you do sustain a foot or ankle injury and come in for professional treatment, make sure you follow our treatment plan carefully. Far too often, people start to feel better – but they aren’t completely healed. When they return to physical activities too quickly, there is a heightened risk of reinjury. You can avoid this by simply adhering to our plan. In the end, doing so will actually help you recover more quickly.
If you follow these baseball injury prevention tips, you can reduce your risk of sustaining a foot or ankle injury while you’re on the diamond or in the outfield. Unfortunately, it is basically impossible to completely eliminate all injury risk when you participate in physical activities.
We hope you are able to stay safe, but remember that our team here at Austin Foot and Ankle Specialists is waiting in the bullpen to provide relief if you injure a foot or ankle while playing ball.
You can always find the care you need from leading podiatric experts at our practice, so either give us a call today or take a moment to request your appointment online!