Dr. Galante Offers 5 Foot and Ankle Care Tips for Gymnasts

Our very own Dr. Jason P. Galante’s time as a podiatrist doesn’t stop when he leaves the office. He is constantly concerned about foot health, especially when it comes to his daughter who is an avid gymnast. Today, Dr. Galante is here to share some professional tips that he uses to protect his daughter’s feet and that we all should be considering if you or someone you love participates in gymnastics. 

It goes without saying that our feet bear our weight and the brunt of our everyday activities, especially for athletes. When you think of foot and ankle injuries, your mind naturally wanders to sports like running or soccer, but you may not realize just how much a gymnast’s feet are put through the paces as well.

Think about it: Gymnasts wear little to no foot support (mostly because it would be hard to balance on a beam in sneakers or cleats). They also do a great deal of hard landings and various jumping activities, all of which categorize the sport as high impact. As a result, the structures of the ankles and feet are more prone to injury.

With a gymnast in the family, I have learned to tailor my care to people participating in this unique sport to ensure all gymnasts are happy and healthy while doing what they love. Take a look at some of my tips for keeping feet and ankles in tip-top shape on and off the mat:

1. Participate in warm-up exercises

Like any other sport, gymnastics requires a warm up to help avoid injury while participating. However, when it comes to warming up, I don’t solely focus on my area of expertise—there are many parts of the body, specifically joints, that need to be warmed up into shape before participating in any athletics.

In addition to warming up the feet and ankles, I also recommend that gymnasts warm up the knees, hips and lower back (your spine is, in fact, a series of joints). Your routine can include exercises such as a bridge stretch, pigeon stretch or a downward dog pose.

2. Brace yourself

If you feel any weakness or instability in your ankles, do not take any chances; despite their functions, the ankles are made up of delicate, intricate mechanisms that can become easily damaged if not tended to properly.

Your best bet is to don a gauntlet brace during practice and competition. A gauntlet brace—also known as a gauntlet-style ankle foot orthosis (AFO) or leather lacer—is a brace typically made of special plastic or leather that gives the ankle additional support. It vaguely resembles a toeless version of the old school lace-up shoes wrestlers used to wear.

3. Cool it down

After every practice and workout, I insist that my daughter ice her ankles and feet to reduce any inflammation that may have occurred during movement. Ice therapy also helps to ease pain and discomfort from sore muscles.

4. Keep an eye out for overuse injuries

Overuse injuries—as the name implies—are due to an overuse of a certain area due to a repetitive action. In gymnastics, this overuse is often due to turning and kicking on one side more than than the other. This can result in flexibility or muscle imbalances and lead to other injuries, including anterior cruciate ligament tears, damaged cartilage (connective tissue in a joint that helps it move) and knee/low back issues.

If you suspect an overuse injury in your feet or ankles, schedule an appointment with a specialist right away. Until your appointment, keep off the affected appendage, utilize the R.I.C.E. method of treatment—rest, ice compression and elevation—and take nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) such as ibuprofen. It might also be a good idea to put the gauntlet brace on for additional support.

5. Give it a break

If you have injured yourself, rest the injured area completely for at least one week before resuming light activity. Remember: Pain is the body’s way of tell you something is wrong. Listen to it, and give it a break.

By following these tips and tricks, you’ll be back to somersaulting to victory in no time. For more information or to schedule an appointment with me, Dr. Dad, or my experienced associates, contact us today.