19 November 2019
| THE HEARTBEAT OF WOMEN'S SPORT

The most common leg and foot injuries – and how to avoid them

June 3, 2009
common-sports-injuries

There’s nothing more frustrating than watching your team mates from the bench as you recover from injury. Research from the New Zealand centre of Physiotherapy Research has identified the ten most common sporting injuries. Here we look at those that affect the leg and foot and with help from two top physiotherapists we show you how to avoid them.

 Look out for part two of this feature, coming soon, that looks at injuries that affect other parts of the body.

1. Ankle sprain

How might it be caused?

Poor balance and weakness in the muscles of the outer calf can lead to an ankle sprain says leading physiotherapist Paula Coates. (www.paulacoates.com and www.balancephysio.com)

Who’s at risk?

Those playing sports that require quick and multidirectional changes in movement such as football, squash and hockey are susceptible to ankle sprains.

What’s the prevention?

“Make sure you have the correct footwear for your foot type and your sport,” recommends Coates. “Balance work using a wobble board or Bosu will help strengthen the ankles as will resistance band work for the outer calf.”

2. Knee ligament injuries

How might it be caused?

A direct blow to the knee, overuse and changing direction at speed can all cause knee ligament injuries says Claire Lawrence, head  physiotherapist at London Welsh Rugby and practicing physio at The Third Space Medicine (www.thethirdspace.com/medicine).

Who’s at risk?

Rugby players, footballers and those playing high speed sports involving multiple changes of direction are at risk of traumatic injury to knee ligaments while swimmers are more likely to be a risk of a knee ligament injury through overuse.

What’s the prevention?

Ensuring the muscles around your knee are strong is a good start to knee injury prevention.  Lawrence recommends knee extensions, hamstring curls and leg presses to strengthen these muscles. “Balance and stability training helps the muscles around your knees work together more effectively,” she explains.

3. Anterior knee pain

How might it be caused?

According to Lawrence, landing on just one foot places a huge amount of pressure on the knees.  Over time or after a bad landing athletes can begin to experience pain around the knee.

Who’s at risk?

Lawrence explains that tennis players, netballers, long jumpers and outdoor runners are most at risk as they are prone to develop tight lateral structures around the knee.

What’s the prevention?

Wearing the correct footwear for your sport will help to reduce impact and therefore know pain.  Lawrence recommends having your hips, knees and feet assessed by a professional when choosing your footwear.

4. Calf and shin strains

How might it be caused?

Calf and shin injuries are most commonly seen in sports that involve running and in runners covering all distances.  “The calf muscle is key in propulsion and explosive sprinting can result in calf strains if you’re not fully warmed up or have a problem with tightness in the muscles of the calf,” says Coates.

Who’s at risk?

According to Coates, marathon runners often suffer with calf and shin strains.  “Shin pain or medial tibial stress syndrome (MTSS) is common in runners who run too far too soon,” she says.

What’s the prevention?

Ensure you have the correct trainers for your foot type and increase your running distance gradually.  “Calf strains can be avoided with a good stretching and flexibility routine which includes passive and dynamic stretching,” says Coates.

5. Foot pain

How might it be caused?

Inadequate footwear and or tying your shoes too tightly can cause foot pain.  Lawrence also highlights compensation for another injury as a cause as this may force you to adapt the way you run or move.

Who’s at risk?

Dancers and people who train excessively, especially those involved with impact sports such as running.  Lawrence also lists those who have not had their footwear assessed for their sport and therefore may over or under pronate their feet as being at risk.

What’s the prevention?

Lawrence recommends having your feet assessed to ensure you buy the correct footwear. “It is vital that your arch is properly supported and that your trainers aren’t laced too tightly as this constrains natural movement,” says Lawrence.  “Always buy new trainers every six months or when you have run over 500 miles, whichever comes first,” she suggests.

Kristoph Thompson, Sportsister
The Women’s Sports Magazine

Select a sport

Find out how to get started, training plans and expert advice.