Sports are a big part of life for many people. But the higher the intensity of the sport, the harder it can be on the body. High-impact sports can sometimes lead to foot and/or ankle injuries. Injuries from high-impact sports

The Difference Between Low- and High-Impact Sports

There are many sports that can help you stay active and physically fit, but it’s important to know the difference between a low- and high-impact sport and the types of injuries that can occur when you participate in one.

Physical “impact” is defined as the amount of force put on your bones and joints as a result of physical activity. Any movement that is gentle on the body and can be made adaptable to suit all levels of fitness are considered to be low-impact. Low-impact sports and exercises include:

  • Swimming
  • Cycling
  • Yoga
  • Rowing
  • Elliptical cardio

High-impact exercise involves motion that potentially puts a lot of strain on your joints through jumping and jolting movements. If your feet come off the ground at the same time, there is a lot of force put on your joints and bones whenever you land. Some high-impact activities include:

  • Running
  • Tennis
  • Skiing
  • Gymnastics

Low-impact exercise is safer with less risk of injury, and it’s also a great option for those who are new to working out and/or athletes who are recovering from a prior injury. High-impact sports can also have a positive impact on the body—they are great for cardiovascular health, getting your heart rate up, and also burning calories. High-impact exercise can also be beneficial for the health of your bones by improving density.

High-Impact Sports Injuries

There are many different types of foot and ankle injuries that can occur when engaging in strenuous activity and high-impact sports. Some common foot and ankle injuries include:

  • Ankle rolling. This occurs when the ankle touches the ground. This can cause a strain or sprain.
  • Plantar fasciitis. Plantar fasciitis happens when the plantar fascia—the band of tissue connecting the toe and heel—becomes inflamed due to overuse. The pain is often felt primarily in the heel but can be felt all along the bottom of the foot.
  • Tendonitis. This injury occurs when the tendons in and around your foot and ankle become inflamed. It is often the result of improper training or a lack of warming up before an activity or exercise.
  • Shin splint. This is an injury to the tendons on the sides of the leg and ankle. It’s a very common injury in runners.
  • Stress fractures. These can occur in the bones of the ankle or foot. They are small cracks that develop through overuse.

Injury Concerns for Children vs. Adults

Adults and children experience and recover from high-impact sports differently. Children tend to get injured because of a lack of skill and underdeveloped coordination, while adults get injured at times because of weaker muscles, fatigue, or mental distraction. While adults often take longer to recover than children, recovery is still a concern for kids because injuries can harm and/or damage still-growing bodies.

One way to protect a child from a high-impact sport injury is to ensure they wear proper equipment, including shoes appropriate for the sport. Making sure that shoes fit properly is worth the extra time and expense as it can prevent many injuries. Look for a shoe that:

  • Is well-fitting and appropriate for the specific activity
  • Offers good support
  • Has a wide toe box

Go to a store that specializes in athletic shoes, and make sure your child walks around in the shoes for a few minutes. The proper shoe will feel comfortable immediately—there should be no “growing into it” period with athletic shoes.

If a child is actively participating in a high-impact sport, be sure to look for signs of injury regularly. A child might not think they’re injured, and younger children cannot always express when they are hurt. Changes in gait, irritability, or not wanting to go to games or practices can all be signs of injury.

Are You Looking for a Sports Injuries Expert in Austin, TX?

If you are looking for sports injury care, you should reach out to an experienced podiatristAustin Foot and Ankle Specialists can help. Our office provides a wide variety of advanced, effective treatment options for all kinds of painful conditions. Ready to schedule an appointment? Contact us online or call our Austin office at 512.328.8900.


Craig Thomajan
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Austin Podiatrist