Many of the injuries suffered in professional sports occur below the waist – knees, ankles, feet. In basketball, the feet are especially important as three basic actions for the player – running, jumping, and cutting – are essential to being an effective player. Last year, Brooklyn Nets guard Joe Johnson was sidelined with plantar fasciitis, a foot injury that is caused by too much impact on the foot’s shock absorber, the plantar fascia. Whatever the level is that an athlete performs at or whatever the sport, the feet are often the difference between playing or sitting.
When you stop and think about it, the entire weight of your body is on your feet when you are standing. Healthy people do not pay much attention to this fact because their feet always work. They are there when they need them – until the time an injury causes problems just walking. There are no small injuries to the foot. There are 27 bones in the foot, and any one of them that breaks can sideline an athlete. Placing too much stress on the plantar fascia, which is not a bone, can result in a lost season. Even a blister or callus can not only cause pain, but will only get worse if left untreated. With any injury, try walking around normally with just one working foot.
But injuries are not the only way your feet can become less than 100 percent functional. Athlete’s foot and ingrown toenails may be more common but can still cause more problems down the road. Your feet need to be both protected and have a regimen of preventive maintenance to keep them in top shape.
Washing your feet and being diligent to dry between the toes will prevent the buildup of bacteria that causes foot odor and can cause an infection in the event of a cut or other break in the skin. Though sandals are popular in the warmer months, they expose the feet to injury and biting insects. Wearing socks is highly recommended since they absorb perspiration and offer another layer of protection to the feet. These are simple yet important ways that you can use as part of your preventive maintenance program for your feet.
Brand name shoes from companies such as Nike and Adidas are marketed with the brightest and best stars of professional sports. As popular as the shoes are, an athlete needs to ask whether the particular style or design of the shoes in best for them. Any well-constructed shoe will have features that reduce the impact on the feet and are lighter than average to minimize the weight the feet have to carry. Any shoe insert used should be custom fitted by an orthopedist to insure that there is no friction caused against the feet that can lead to blisters or calluses. Shoes are an excellent piece of equipment to protect the feet and like socks, provide an additional layer of protection against injury.
There is so much emphasis placed on certain physical aspects of being an athlete that often the feet are left unguarded. This is not an intentional neglect, and one of the most common complaints of locker rooms is smelly feet. While a minor nuisance, foot odor can be a sign of a bigger problem. The truth is we depend on our feet for almost every physical activity, from walking to running to weight lifting, yet like our hearts never pay much attention to their overall importance in a healthy body.
If there is a single problem in keeping our feet healthy it is one of attitude. No serious athlete intentionally ignores the health of any part of their body. At the same time, there are parts of the body that gain our special attention. In most cases, the feet are near the bottom of the list. With the right attitude, a small investment in equipment, and some preventive maintenance, most injuries to the feet are preventable. It takes only a few minutes a day and doing so will maximize your performance and keep you playing.