Believe it or not, football isn’t the most dangerous sport—basketball is (in terms of number of injuries). Knee injuries are some of the most serious basketball injuries a youth athlete might encounter, and ACL injuries among youth athletes (more common among basketball and soccer players) have been associated with an increased risk for degenerative knee arthritis later in life.
Did you know that the shoes/cleats your youth athlete wears during their practices and games can have a dramatic affect on knee injury prevention? Different types of athletic shoes have been developed for various sports, based on unique needs of that sport. For instance, basketball shoes have skid-resistant soles so players can change directions quickly on the court. Meanwhile, football cleats have short spikes so players can dig into the turf better. Wearing the wrong shoes for the wrong sport puts a youth athlete at risk for knee injury. Without the right foot support and tread pattern, you youth athletes shoes will do more harm than good.
The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons put together this great checklist for youth athletes that are shopping for new sports shoes to make sure they get the right pair:
- Try on athletic shoes after a workout or run, or at the end of the day. This is when your feet will be at their largest.
- Wear the same type of sock that you will wear for that sport.
- When the shoe is on your foot, you should be able to freely wiggle all of your toes.
- The shoes should be comfortable as soon as you try them on. You should not expect a break-in period.
- Walk or run a few steps in your shoes. They should be comfortable.
- Always re-lace the shoes you are trying on. You should begin at the farthest eyelets and apply even pressure as you criss-cross a lacing pattern to the top of the shoe. Modifying the lace pattern should be discussed with a shoe expert.
- There should be a firm grip of the shoe to your heel. Your heel should not slip as you walk or run.
- If you participate in a sport three or more times a week, you need a sport-specific shoe.
- Purchase your shoes from a store that has salespeople who are knowledgeable about athletic shoes and different foot types.
If your youth athlete is serious about their sport, than you have to be serious about their gear. The right equipment, coupled with proper stretching exercise and techniques, can make all the difference in sports injury prevention.