During Olympic season it's always a thrill to watch as athletes from around the world pull out all the stops to compete in their sport. This year is no different. Although every sport is exciting in it's own way, nothing is as crowd pleasing as watching the Women's US Gymnastic Team take home gold. With a particularly fabulous team this year with Simone Biles and other athletes like Aly Raisman and Gabby Douglas we were almost assured to take home gold for the team and for the top contenders winning their individual competitions.
Although we all love to watch these high flying women do death defying twirls through the air the cost of the tremendous pressure on their feet and ankles can be high. The same is true for our children's feet if they participate in this risky sport.
With gymnasts putting up to 14 times their body weight when they land, it's not surprising that this can result in injuries such as plantar fasciitis, foot stress fractures, sesamoiditis, a ruptured Achilles or Achilles tendonitis, and sprained or broken ankles. Girl gymnasts ages 8-13 are at particular risk for developing Sever's disease, an extremely painful condition that affects the growth plate of the foot.
How to Protect a Young Gymnast's Feet and Ankles
Buy the Right Shoes
Although gymnasts most often go without shoes, we found a few websites which feature balance beam shoes. Here's one site in the United States. Many of the other ones are in England such as Dance World.
Olympic gymnasts also wear socks as they perform. They help them get a better grip on an apparatus like the balance beam, help with turns during floor exercises, and padded socks can help with the pounding from a dismount. Check out Ten.0 a website specializing in gymnastics supplies.
Stretching is extremely important in gymnastics due to the methods gymnast need to use to do their sport properly. Gymnasts are constantly pointing their toes--this tightens up the calf muscle and Achilles tendon which then pulls on the heel bone and puts pressure on the growth plate. Stretching the calf muscle for a substantial period of time before and after exercise is essential for keeping it from causing Achilles tendonitis, plantar fasciitis, and Sever's Disease. We recommend using a night splint during the day for at least 30 minutes while watching TV or reading.
Use Pre-Wrap Tape
According to USA Gymnastics pre-wrap tape can help prevent common gymnastics foot and ankle injuries. Pre-wrap tape is also used to stabilize and reduce swelling of the foot and ankle that has been injured previously.
Build Up Slowly
It's important that your little gymnast builds up their training hours slowly. Athletes of all stripes that don't put in the time to get their bodies ready to go full tilt suffer the consequences in their feet and ankles.
Overuse injuries abound in gymnastics, particularly among Olympians. Changing up the type of gymnastics and cross training through weight lifting and other sports can all help a gymnast prevent Achilles tendonitis and heel pain. Taking time off is also essential to let the body heal.
Dr. Rion Berg can help your little gymnast get the proper care for battered or aching feet.