Improve Your Game (While Reducing Your Risks of Injuries)

Dr. Anthony Spitz, DPM

Podiatrist & Ankle and Foot Surgeon located in Wheeling, IL

Now that summer is here, you may be working on improving your overall athletic performance. Better, faster, stronger is the name of the game, right?

Maybe you have already set a goal for yourself, like running in a local 5K or beating your personal running record. Or perhaps you want to be faster on the court, or just build that drive that gets you noticed by scouts.

No matter your goal, self-improvement is always an awesome thing!

What’s not so awesome, though, is the fact that, with increased activity, your chances of experiencing a sports injury will also be higher. From ankle sprains to full blown fractures, your feet will be facing a lot of risks as you work toward your goals.

That’s why being patient and planning your activities in a smart way is so important! Your body must always have time to adjust to new and increased stresses. But you can count on Dr. Anthony Spitz to help you along the way.

Now, if you have already read our last blog on sports injuries, you likely already know the basics (like wearing appropriate shoes for your specific activity). In this blog, however, you will find more in-depth tips to keep in mind when working on your athletic performance, all while reducing the risks of injuries.

So let’s get right to it. We know that you are eager to get to working.

Gradually Increase Activity Levels

Starting activities before the body is ready to handle the pressure happens to be one of the primary causes of many sports-related injuries. Having a laser focus on one type of activity, or cranking up the intensity of a workout too quickly, can lead to overuse injuries such as stress fractures, Achilles tendinitis, and plantar fasciitis.

Instead, you should slowly build up your exercise routine. A general rule of thumb is to increase your weekly performance by no more than 10 percent over the previous week—though you should keep in mind that different sports and training routines have different forms of stress. So make sure you talk with a professional to determine the best training plan.

You should also consider doing some cross-training. While your goals likely focus on certain areas of your performance, you shouldn’t spend all your time working on just those areas. Dedicate a portion of your training time to working other parts of your body as well. For instance, if you’re largely an endurance athlete, take some time to focus more on strength. On the other hand, if you lift weights all the time, do some running or jogging too.

Swimming, biking, and walking are all great, lower-impact exercises to work into a routine that might otherwise be setting you up for burnout.

Give Your Body Time to Recover

Yes, it’s true – our bodies do grow stronger by rebuilding themselves from the stress and damage our exertion causes. But if you don’t allow your body the chance to rest, you will actually be setting yourself up for a painful injury.

Next thing you know, you won’t have a choice but to cease all activities and run the risk of losing all the strength and endurance you worked so hard to build.

Now, this doesn’t mean you should spend a whole day sitting on the couch (for many athletes this is simply not an option). Cross-training comes in handy here too, as it will help give certain joints and muscles the rest they need while exercising others.

You should also get enough sleep between training (regardless if you are cross-training or going full-throttle in your sports of choice). It is essential that you give yourself 7-9 hours of quality sleep. This is especially true if you are very active or work out first thing in the morning before heading into work or school.

Stay Hydrated

Did you know that the plantar fascia – the thick band that runs along the bottom of your foot, connecting your heel to your toes – is largely comprised of water? It’s true!

And when you are dehydrated, the fascia can become “sticky” and less mobile, which can lead to tears and inflammation – something we call plantar fasciitis.

So how much water should you be drinking?

Well, most experts recommend multiplying your body weight times 0.6 for the recommended number of ounces. Drinking a little more than that isn’t necessarily a bad thing, of course, but don’t guzzle more water than feels comfortable to you.

Know Your Limitations

If you have a natural or inherited weakness when it comes to areas of the feet, like faulty biomechanics, your risk of injury will be higher than that of someone who has an overall healthy foot structure.

It may be that your foot arch is flat or too high, or maybe you tend to overpronate, putting more pressure on certain areas of your foot that are not built to endure such strain. If you already have an existing condition, it’s important that you address it before being active and performing in your sports of choice. 

So make sure you come to our office to get your feet and ankles checked out. Knowing whether you have any natural risks based on your body structure will help you take the necessary steps to lower those risks.

Once you know how your feet are performing, and what you should do to keep them safe, you should also follow the preventative instructions given to you by your doctor. This may involve wearing custom orthotics while you play – these versatile devices can even help your overall performance by adding more comfort and stability to your movement!

We may also recommend certain stretches and physical therapy as part of your routine. 

Don’t Push Through the Pain – Get the Help You Need Today!

Finally, you should never keep pushing through the pain. If your feet hurt, stop.

Mild foot discomfort after running a marathon can be normal, but pain that keeps increasing with activity and doesn’t subside after rest and ice therapy is definitely not something you should ignore. (Pain is, after all, your body’s way of telling you something is wrong.)

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