Youth Baseball Foot & Ankle Injuries
Along with Springtime, we welcome one of the nation’s most popular sports – baseball. For many parents, this season brings the hustle and bustle of getting their children to and from several baseball games and practices. Youth baseball-related injuries, especially those of the foot and ankle, are relatively common. Dr. Jeffrey McAlister, FACFAS, shares the five most common youth baseball foot and ankle injuries, as well as tips on prevention.
Five Most Common Youth Baseball Foot & Ankle Injuries
Ankle sprains & fractures: These are among the most common youth baseball-related injuries. These injuries most often occur while running or sliding into bases. It’s important to note, that the failure to properly treat a sprain or fracture may result in the development of life-long chronic ankle instability or arthritis. Therefore, it’s very important to seek professional treatment immediately following the injury. In the meantime, R.I.C.E. (Rest, Ice, Compression and Evaluation) is a helpful technique that may be used at home to care for the injury. A professional foot and ankle physician, like Dr. Jeffrey McAlister, will be able to provide the appropriate wraps, braces or boots that may be necessary for recovery.
Peroneal tendon injuries: The foot consists of two peroneal tendons that run together from the outer part of the foot behind the ankle bone to the midfoot and the inside of the arch. Their main function is to provide stability to the foot and ankle. Injuries to these tendons are very common in youth baseball players and are linked to overuse injuries, which occur slowly over time. Unfortunately, these injuries take six or more weeks to heal. Rest is a large component in treating peroneal tendon injuries, which can be difficult due to the placement of the injury. Physical therapy, bracing and PRP (platelet-rich plasma) injections are typical treatment options. In rare, serious cases, surgery to repair the tendons may be necessary.
Plantar fasciitis: Plantar fasciitis or chronic heel pain is a condition characterized by inflammation of the band of tissue that connects the heel bone to the toes. Baseball players who frequently play the catcher position are at most risk of developing this painful condition. Conservative treatment options such as ice, rest and a new pair of shoes are generally enough to alleviate pain. If symptoms persist, special foot orthotics or shoe inserts are then utilized. In rare cases, steroid injections, a boot or surgery may be necessary.
Achilles tendinopathy- Achilles tendinopathy is the inflammation and swelling of the Achilles tendon, which is the tissue that connects the calf muscle to the heel bone. More often, people experience pain from the base of their heel bone up to the top of their ankle. For baseball players, this injury is often caused by an improper landing after jumping to catch a ball. As with many of the previous conditions, treatment options include R.I.C.E., physical therapy, steroid injections, a brace and anti-inflammatory medications.
Sever’s Disease- Sever’s disease is a condition involving the inflammation of the growth plate in the heel of growing children. It presents itself as intense pain and is the result of repetitive stress on the heel. This condition is most prevalent in active or athletic children. Heel cups, physical therapy and custom orthotics are common types of treatment options for Sever’s disease.
Tips for Preventing Youth Foot and Ankle Injuries
Here are some tips for parents to have their children follow in order to prevent foot and ankle injuries:
- Have your child warm up and stretch before playing: A short, 2-3-minute light jog is a perfect way to do this.
- Make sure your child’s cleats fit properly: Cleats that do not fit properly may put stress on different parts of the foot and ankle, resulting in injury.
- Inspect the field before playing: Both parents and coaches should inspect the baseball field looking for holes and debris. These objects place children at increased risks for foot and ankle injuries.
- Previous injuries must be healed: If your child isn’t recovered from a previous injury, don’t let them play until all pain and symptoms have subsided.
For more tips, read our blog on Foot and Ankle Injuries.