The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine

Safe! Preventing Foot and Ankle Injuries in Baseball Players

Posted by on Monday, March 19th, 2012

Spring training is winding down and opening day is only a few short weeks away. They’re getting ready for real baseball in the major leagues, and kids everywhere are getting ready for Little League, travel team, or high school baseball games. With that in mind, let’s talk today about foot and ankle injuries in baseball players, especially young ones.

Baseball players don’t put their feet through the constant jumping and pounding that basketball players do. However, baseball players can still suffer some of the same problems as their hardcourt siblings–overuse, excess training, and lack of diversity in training can lead to plantar fasciitis, foot stress fractures, Achilles tendinitis or ruptured Achilles tendons, and blisters in baseball players as well as basketball players.

There are other peculiarities of baseball, though, that can lead to sometimes devastating foot injuries.  In fact, foot injuries are one of the most common injuries suffered by young baseball players. Here are some problems to look out for, especially if you have a child who plays baseball or softball:

Problem: Running the bases. One of the most basic parts of the game, running the bases can also be one of the most lethal for injuries. Yankee fans shudder at the memory of pitcher Chien Ming-Wang running the bases in Houston–something not common for American League pitchers–then pulling up with a foot injury. It turned out to be a torn Lisfranc ligament (look out for this topic in the future), which ended Wang’s season. When he tried to return from it the next year, he tried to compensate for the injury and ended up messing up his pitching mechanics so that he was ineffective and then incurred other injuries. He’s trying to make another comeback with the Nationals this year. When word came this spring that star Yankee relief pitcher David Robertson had suffered a foot injury falling down some steps while carrying boxes (baseball players are prone to strange, strange injuries), everyone got bad flashbacks to the Chien-Ming Wang injury; luckily it only turned out to be a bone bruise. So even thought running the bases seems like it should be simple, strange things can happen along the way.

Solution: Make sure the field is in good condition (we’re talking about non-pro players here; the pros do have pretty good groundkeepers). Take care of your own field–look out for holes, unusual bumps in the terrain, or anything else that could trip up a runner. If you’re with the visiting team, take a look around the field when you arrive to see if there are any similar problems. Have your kids run around the field a little bit to get used to it. Make sure the pitcher’s mound is in good condition as well.

Which brings us to another solution–practice running the bases. It can be easy to devote all your practice time to hitting and fielding, but base running is just as important. I know, running seems like it should be natural, but starting from a dead stop and coming to a quick stop are not. Make sure your kids can do those without any awkward motions that can lead to foot injuries. Also, sometimes small kids have a hard time focusing on things and that can lead to tangled up feet and falls. Look for drills that will keep their minds on what their doing with their feet.

Problem: Shoes/Cleats. Baseball shoes with cleats or spikes on them are meant to give players better traction on grass while running, but they can also lead to injuries if the spikes get caught in the grass. Think twisted ankles, fractured ankles, turf toe, and foot fractures, not to mention cuts and bruises.

Solution: Make sure you choose the right kind of cleat for your league and the surfaces your child’s team will be playing on. Baseball Coaching Tips has some ideas for picking out the right cleats for young baseball players. And of course, as always, make sure your child’s cleats are the right size!! Have a pro in an athletic store measure your child’s feet. If you are having trouble choosing the right shoes for your child, have a talk with a podiatrist at The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine.

Once you have the right shoes, give your child time to get used to wearing them and running in them. Have your child wear them for short periods of time and run shorter distances at first, then build up (things to do during the winter! wear cleats around the house!). Check your child’s feet for blisters, redness, or other signs of irritation. If your child is experiencing any kind of pain while wearing their cleats, call The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine (212.996.1900) to discuss the problem.

Problem: Sliding. Sliding into a base can be a lot of fun, especially for little kids, but slides can also lead to some bad lower body injurie: again, sprained or fractured ankles and feet, bone bruises, broken or jammed toes.

Solution: There’s a right way to slide, so make sure your child know it or is being taught it. Kids should also be taught to be careful with their spikes. Yes, major leaguers may use their spikes as a weapon, but they’re getting paid millions of dollars to win. Kids need to understand that it’s not funny (and you know some do) to slide into a base with their spikes up, right at the fielder; that can seriously injure someone.

Poorly fitted shoes can also trip up or tangle up a sliding player, so yes, I’ll just say it again. Make sure the shoes fit!

Baseball is a good source of exercise and can be a lot of fun, especially if your feet feel good. If you or your child have been playing a while and are suffering any kind of foot discomfort, contact us at The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine. Dr. Josef J. GeldwertDr. Katherine Lai, and Dr. Ryan Minara have helped thousands of people get back on their feet.

If you have any foot problems or pain, contact The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports MedicineDr. Josef J. GeldwertDr. Katherine Lai, Dr. Ryan Minara and Dr. Mariola Rivera have helped thousands of people get back on their feet. Unfortunately, we cannot give diagnoses or treatment advice online. Please make an appointment to see us if you live in the NY metropolitan area or seek out a podiatrist in your area.