Running creates significant ground forces that need to be absorbed by the feet, and repetitive overuse or an imbalance in biomechanical function can result in pain and injury. It’s no surprise, therefore, that some of the most common sports injuries are directly attributed to an athlete’s movements while impacting on the ground or playing surface.
Although pain is unwelcome, it can provide a warning that all is not as it should be with foot mechanics and lower limb alignment. Sports podiatry focuses on the interaction between feet, the ground and the forces and loads experienced during sporting activity. This correlation is called ‘biomechanics’, where mechanical principles are applied to biological organisms and functions.
Sports podiatry biomechanical assessment
Progressive technology and focused training provides sports podiatrists with the tools to undertake a comprehensive biomechanical analysis of the feet. There are many situations where a biomechanical assessment is worth considering, including:
- Pain is repeatedly or usually experienced when weight-bearing activities are performed
- Biomechanical functions of the feet don’t perform as they should
- A change in gait, posture or alignment has been caused by a previous injury
- A desire to prevent injury from occurring
A biomechanical analysis aims to identify the injury and determine if current activities or movements are contributing to the problem. A management plan is then formulated to reduce damage caused by stresses and loads, providing an opportunity for the feet and legs to heal and strengthen.
A consultation with a Sports podiatrist will typically include:
- Injury history: Information regarding past and present sporting involvement, the nature and location of pain, and previous treatment approaches can be of assistance to a sports podiatrist.
- Non-Weightbearing orthopaedic examination: The podiatrist will evaluate skeletal anatomy, foot shape, muscle power, joint range and joint stiffness.
- Weight-bearing analysis: Tests are undertaken to help evaluate the relationship between movements and various body segments. Lunging, bending and resistance tests are typical examples.
Motion or gait analysis of the individual is also performed barefoot and while wearing shoes. A specific advantage of sports podiatry is the evaluation of the entire limb.
Sports podiatry strategies
There are lots of ways a sports podiatrist can assist people with troubling injuries. After all, good health is the norm and injuries are unwelcome and usually temporary inconveniences. Here are a few ways a sports podiatrist can assist:
Modified running techniques: Many people suffer problems with their knees and shins when attempting to compensate for niggling foot or tendon injuries. This is all too apparent in athletes. Biomechanical or functional impairments plus postural imbalances often originate from previous injuries. A sports podiatrist can sort out the problem from head to toe, or visa-versa.
Customised orthotic prescription: Orthotic devices are podiatrist prescribed shoe inserts or mechanical aids that assist with proper function and movement. Orthotic devices are useful for both injury prevention and recovery.
Wearing the correct running shoes: Sports shoes are designed with sport-specific needs in mind. Investing in appropriate sports shoes is one of the most important strategies for avoiding injury and remaining on the sports field. Once the sports podiatrist has conducted a range of assessments, suitable footwear can be recommended. The relationship between an individual’s foot structure, injury and prevailing weaknesses are considerations only an experienced podiatrist can fully appreciate and understand.
Transitioning between sports and footwear: A sports podiatry analysis will help determine the appropriate footwear and running techniques for every situation. If you are accustomed to playing a variety of sports, or are inclined to try every event in the track and field athletics competition, a sports podiatrist can be an invaluable assistant for getting the most out of your performance.
Sports podiatry is multi-faceted, providing professional assistance that harmonises with associated sports medicine systems. Achieving optimum recovery and a fast return to your chosen sport or activity is well within reach.