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Sports

Sports and Exercise

Whatever your sport, the fact is that you will most likely depend on your feet to maintain or improve performance. You will also be keen to avoid injury and should this occur, overcome problems as soon as possible. Podiatry can help in all these areas, by assessing your feet and gait podiatrists can recommend the correct training shoe to suit your needs and help avoid injury. Podiatrists can also treat injuries when they do occur.

On this page, we discuss:

  • Understanding biomechanics
  • Possible injuries
  • How to avoid injury
  • Orthotics

To download this information, click here Sports

Understanding Biomechanics

A significant proportion of sports and exercise related injury is directly attributable to impaired foot function, simply because the foot as a weight-bearing extremity is at its most vulnerable under stress. No matter how fit you are, small irregularities compounded by multiple foot strikes frequently result in traumatic injury somewhere in the foot or leg.

Biomechanics is the study of human movement, and a podiatrist is qualified to examine, assess and diagnose biomechanical faults in the foot, and to recommend a treatment plan which can help avoid injury in the first place, and help resolve functional problems relating to existing injuries or weaknesses.

A typical plan of treatment may include muscle stretching, muscle strengthening, advice on correct footwear, and possibly an orthotic device. Often referred to as inserts, plates, or even arch supports, true orthoses don’t work on the principle of “supporting” the arch, but are individually contoured and angled both to control abnormal motion without impairing normal function.

Possible injuries

Besides injuries caused by the sport itself, such as falling, tripping, twisting ankles, or being knocked over by an opponent, a faulty foot strike can cause problems at several levels, including:

  • the foot itself, with stress fractures, metatarsalgia, plantar fasciitis and heel spur syndrome;
  • the leg, with stress fractures of the tibia or fibula, shin splints, Achilles tendonitis and posterior tibial tendonitis;
  • the knee with tibio-fibular arthraglia, and “runner’s knee”, to name a few.

How to avoid injury

Stretching

For optimal mobility prior to strenuous sport, proper warm up and stretching is essential. If muscles are warm, the strain on muscles, tendons, and joints is reduced. After sport, repeat the same stretching and warm down process, which will also help reduce muscle stiffness the next day.

Footwear

The right footwear to keep the foot secure and help avoid in jury is as important for an athlete is as the right equipment is for enhancing performance.

Runners in particular need to ensure their shoes are replaced regularly, sometimes as often as every few months. Depending on distances run and shoe type, important shock absorbing padding can wear thin and become ineffective. Also, in all sports shoes, tread should be checked regularly to prevent slips and falls.

Ask a podiatrist

When buying sports shoes, it is important to know your foot type. The shape of your foot, ie high arched, flat, pronating, etc. will determine the type of shoe that will serve you best. Don’t be influenced by marketing hype. Look for the shoe that suits you and your needs best, and if in doubt ask your podiatrist for advice.

Choosing a podiatrist with an interest in sport is as important to any serious athlete as finding the right coach and a good physician. Ask around, and if in doubt, contact Podiatry WA for the names of registered practitioners who have a particular interest in biomechanics.

A podiatrist can:

  • Help to overcome an injury
  • Provide an orthotic prescription
  • Help with sports shoe selection
  • Assessment of your running style
  • Provide you with exercise and training tips to help your feet.

Orthoses (Orthotic devices)

Orthotic devices can be used to maintain proper foot support. They are made of plastic and must be regularly checked (at least once every three years) to ensure they are still doing the job they were designed and fitted to do. Orthoses help to realign the foot and distribute body weight evenly. They can be used for all for a variety of problems including pain, poor stability and gross motor problems. These devices are not simple arch supports and need to be custom-made for each individual.

The Podiatrist, after assessing your foot function may recommend orthoses or insoles to help relieve foot pain and discomfort.