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The NRL footy season officially starts next week when the Rabbits and Roosters kick off for battle on 7 March and marks a time when everyone who plays all types of football should check their gait, foot health and their boots – kids and all.
Trent Baker of the Australian Podiatry Association who has looked after a number of footballers said having the wrong boots on your feet is a sure way of getting injuries.
“You really need to know your feet and how you move when playing a sport like football. The feet take a huge amount of stress from the, running, quick direction changes while stepping and, for the big players, weight and power they carry around the field,” he said.
“We need to remember there are 26 bones in one foot, many of which are quite delicate so they need to be encased in a supportive boot which also allows foot flexibility when running and moving in different directions, as required in this sport. However all feet and lower limbs are shaped and move differently, so knowing your foot type, your gait and running style are vital in helping to select the best boots and training shoes.
“All professional football teams have a podiatrist in their medical squad, so they take their foot health seriously. If children are playing football it’s important parents also take their kids feet and limbs seriously by having them checked by a podiatrist, who can then recommend the right place to go and buy footwear where feet are properly measured and fitted in line with the podiatrist’s recommendations,” Mr Baker said.
“Having good fitting boots, particularly for children as they grow and play sports will make a huge amount of difference to physical limb development and injury reduction. Parents often make the mistake of worrying about growth in footy boots, however we really must ensure the fit is secure and not too loose, which will create instability.”
The most common foot and limb pathology in football are Achilles tendon and calf muscles injuries; stress fractures in the feet, particularly the fifth metatarsal which is a thin bone that carries much of the strain; soft tissue strains like plantar fasciitis – the major structure in the underside of the foot; and lateral ankle sprains or rolling on your ankle which can put you off the field for up to eight weeks.
Key ways to avoid such injuries are focused muscle strengthening exercises; correctly fitted boots and trainers when off the field; orthotics to stabilise the feet of players with bio-mechanical issues –this needs an assessment from a podiatrist who is experienced in sports injuries; power taping to enhance and guard muscle performance during the game and help stabilise lower limbs; and proper warming up before playing or training and regular stretching of the limbs and feet.
“Ultimately when you are playing an explosive contact sport like football you need to not only know your upper body you need to really know your feet and lower limbs. Also, if you have any pain do not play and if you experience pain after a game, use ice to reduce swelling but if pain persists see a podiatrist,” Mr Baker concluded.