two young women holding a soccer ballLots of girls are watching in rapture as Team USA continues to dominate the Women's World Cup in France this year. Many of these girls will be ready to hit the soccer fields this summer but many more will compete against other Seattle school teams this fall. While the risk of concussions from heading the ball has been all over the news recently, less visible are concerns about the feet and ankles of teen girls.

Here are some of the most common soccer foot and ankle injuries in this population.

Ankle sprains
Ankle sprains are the most common injury in soccer due to the twisting and force put on the ankle during play. Combined these two factors can result in excessive stretching or tearing of one or more ligaments on the outside of the ankle.

Ankle fractures 
Ankle fractures can occur simultaneously with an ankle sprain. They result from the ankle rolling inward or outward. It's not usually apparent whether an ankle is sprained or broken, so a trip to your podiatrist is warranted to ensure proper treatment takes place.

Contusions and bone bruises
Contusions and bone bruises can result when players run into other players and when players get kicked during active play.

Plantar fasciitis (heel pain)
Soccer players most at risk for plantar fasciitis are those with flat feet. Teen girl soccer players at risk for plantar fasciitis can greatly benefit from wearing custom orthotics. For milder problems over-the-counter orthotics such as Powersteps or taping can be helpful.

Sever's Disease

Sever's disease is another common cause of heel pain in girl athletes. Up until the age 13 girls can have a heel plate that has not fully closed. An open heel plate can result in inflamed tissue in the heel as a result of playing soccer. Reducing activity, using over-the-counter or custom orthotics, or immobilization may be needed to stop the heel pain.

Ingrown Toenails

Ingrown toenails are common in young athletes as they return to school in the fall wearing their old shoes. Old shoes are usually short shoes with the potential to push against the big toe causing it to become ingrown. This problem is usually preventable by buying shoes with the correct fit.

Stress fractures
While stress fractures are most commonly caused by low bone density and this is uncommon in young girls, it can be a problem for those with low body weight. Low body weight and lack of a consistent or absent period are signals that an athlete is not taking in enough calories to support balanced hormones. Estrogen is needed to maintain strong bones. 

What You Can Do To Ensure Your Teen Girl Stays Safe During Soccer

  • Bring her for a pre-season physical examination with your doctor; make sure she asks whether your daughter has a regular period to rule out the potential for stress fractures.
  • Make sure her muscles are in condition for soccer; about a month before she begins to play take her out to a soccer field a few days a week to practice her soccer moves and build muscle strength and mobility.
  • Remind her to drink plenty of water even before she get thirsty.
  • Ensure she's eating a healthy snack every 3-4 hours so she gets enough calories.
  • Teach her to warm up prior to playing soccer; for example, a slow jog and then muscle stretches.
  • Choose athletic shoes made for soccer; if she buys cleats make sure they aren't too tight or short to prevent ingrown toenails and other foot problem.
  • Replace her athletic shoes every six months to ensure they're providing proper support.
  • If she has any specific foot issue such as flat feet or painful feet be sure to make an appointment with a podiatrist.
  • Teach her to pay attention to her body; she should tell you or her coach if she's have pain or discomfort.
  • Check out the soccer field ahead of time or find out if the coach does this. Ensuring there are no irregularities or divots in the field can help prevent unnecessary injuries.
  • Overuse injuries can also occur in young athletes; sometimes they may need to take a substantial break in their activity in order to allow the body to heal properly.

If your teen girl has painful feet or a foot problem that can put her at risk while playing soccer, call us today at 206-368-7000 for an appointment. Often same day for emergencies and less than 2 weeks for chronic foot pain. You can also request an appointment online.

For more information about foot and ankle problems, download our eBook, "No More Foot Pain".

In addition, our newsletter "Foot Sense" comes out monthly.  You can also check out our past issues. Every issue contains a mouth-watering recipe and can be printed out for easier reading!

Seattle foot and ankle specialist, Dr. Rion Berg offers foot care for patients with bunions, heel pain, diabetes, fungal toenails, ingrown nails, and surgical solutions when needed to residents of Seattle, Bellevue, Kirkland, Shoreline, Lake Forest Park, Mountlake Terrace, Lynnwood and other surrounding suburbs.

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