Are you ready for some football? How about some fútbol?

This being West Texas, we’re guessing your answer here is “yes” to at least one of those two options.

But regardless of what sport or activities you enjoy—running and cross country, basketball, volleyball, etc.—the fall season is the perfect time to get back in shape and back in the game! School sports are roaring back into season. The heat is breaking. The monsoon is drying out. Time to get moving!

But wait a second …

Jumping right back into fall sports without doing the proper preparation could put you in the fast lane toward a nasty sports injury.

 We want to make sure you enjoy as much of your autumn as possible on the trail, court, or field—not at home with a pair of crutches!

Read on for some advice on avoiding injuries this fall—and how to deal with them if they do happen.

Tips

Prepare Your Body for New Challenges

Be honest: have you spent most of your summer on the couch, in front of a fan or air conditioner?

If so, trying to jump right back into a fall sports league, five mile running routine, or two hours of basketball or tennis at full speed is probably not a good idea.

See, your body needs time to adjust to new challenges, new fitness demands, even new movements. By working your way up to full speed gradually, you can push your cardiovascular fitness, muscle strength and resilience, and range of motion to their limits without pushing past an early breaking point.

This is true to some extent even if you’re changing from one sport to another. The physical demands of gridiron football, for example, aren’t necessarily the same as running, basketball, or any other sport. Switching into “competitive mode” without doing the proper pre-season training puts untested joints and muscle groups at risk.

So what’s the solution?

When starting up a new activity, really listen to your body—especially in the early going. It’s okay to sweat and work hard, but if you start struggling with genuine pain or windedness, take it easy. Don’t push yourself above a level you can handle comfortably.

Once you find that level, only increase the intensity, duration, or distance (whatever is applicable) of your workouts or training by around 15 percent per week—no more. Make sure you give yourself rest days between workouts, too.

Shoes

Put Good Shoes (Boots, Cleats, etc.) on Your Feet

Many recreational athletes underestimate the importance of finding a good pair of sport-specific shoes or cleats. They won’t just make you play better. They can actually reduce your risk of injury.

If you’re planning to get active, look for shoes that are:

Sport-specific

 In other words, avid runners should have a good pair of running shoes. Basketball players should have a good pair of basketball shoes. Soccer players should have a good pair of soccer cleats (as opposed to gridiron football cleats or baseball cleats).

Bottom line: there’s really no such thing as “all purpose” athletic shoes that are ideal for athletes who train extensively in just one or two types of activities. Different sports challenge your feet and ankles differently.

A basketball player, for example, needs to be able to pivot, start, stop, jump, and move in any direction. That’s why basketball shoes generally have high tops (for ankle stability), relatively wide and flat soles, and lots of cushioning. By contrast, running shoes are generally low cut, lightweight, and built for straight-ahead speed. Even the stud patterns on various styles of cleats could be optimized for one sport or another.

The right size and shape

Maybe this goes without saying, but your athletic footwear should fit correctly. Shoes or cleats that are too short, too long, too wide or too narrow are not only uncomfortable to play in, but can cause pain and instability.

Want to find the right fit? Follow these tips:

  • Always make sure to measure your feet carefully in the store before trying on any new pairs of athletic footwear.
  • Always test the fit before buying. Walk around the store. Jog or jump a bit if you are able. The shoes should feel comfortable right away, and give you plenty of “wiggle room” for toes—but not so much room that they slide around on your feet.
  • Bring along a pair of appropriate athletic socks that you can wear when trying on new gear. If you wear the wrong socks, you might get the wrong fit.
  • Try to go shopping toward the end of the day, or after exercise. This is because your feet have a tendency to swell slightly after extended use. Since your feet will probably swell a bit when playing, you’ll want to make sure they don’t get too large for your shoe!

Not pre-owned

We discourage athletes from buying used shoes or cleats. Although it might save you a little money up front, it could cost you a lot in pain and performance.

All shoes wear out with time. Even durable, expensive running shoes only have an effective lifespan of roughly 300-500 miles before they can no longer provide effective support and cushioning for your feet. By the time they wind up in a used sporting goods store, most athletic shoes are already mostly (if not completely) spent.

Even if the midsoles haven’t completely compressed, the footbeds of used shoes tend to sag and conform to the foot shape of their original owner—not unlike how a mattress or sofa develops distinctive “grooves” over time. This contouring probably isn’t going to match your feet all that well, which can mean painful friction and high-pressure zones where you don’t want them.

New is definitely the way to go. Fortunately for those looking to save a little green, inexpensive is usually fine for most recreational athletes. Although “you get what you pay for” is true to a degree, even cheap new athletic shoes are a big improvement over used shoes.

Stretch

Quick Tips

Simply conditioning yourself for activity and making smart choices with footwear can go a long way. Here are some other quick things to consider before you play if you want to reduce your chances of sustaining an injury.

  • Always warm up before and cool down after a game or an intense workout.
  • Drink lots of water before, during, and after the game.
  • Mix up your activities in training so you aren’t always stressing the same muscles and joints. Cross training in a low-impact discipline like cycling or swimming is always a great choice.
  • On top of that, strength training and stretching should be incorporated into any training regimen.
  • If you play in a competitive youth league, get a pre-season physical. Your doctor might discover something you weren’t aware of, and make recommendations for safer play.
  • Don’t play in unsafe conditions. A slippery field or court, for example, drastically increases the risk of a nasty sprain or other injury.
  • Listen to your body. If it hurts, stop.

If it keeps hurting? Make an appointment with Dr. Bruce Scudday and our foot and ankle sports medicine team. We offer customized, effective treatment solutions that fit your lifestyle and help you get back to what you love as quickly as possible.

Just call the El Paso office closest to your location today:

  • Curie Drive: (915) 533-5151
  • George Dieter Drive: (915) 856-3331
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