Baseball is the national pastime in America. From kids to adults, playing baseball is one of the most enjoyable team sports. But as with other sports, its important that you keep yourself in good condition and have the right equipment to play safely and enjoy the health benefits of the game. Baseball players are advised to condition their entire bodies and be sure to stretch the leg, ankle, and foot muscles before, during, and after play to avoid injuries.
Baseball can be characterized by lots of stops and starts, lots of running, and, of course sliding. Practice and technique can enhance your competency and enjoyment of the game, but they are also crucial for building up the muscles needed in baseball. The rapid and changing movements associated with the sport place many pressures on your feet and ankles.
Your feet and ankles take a beating when you’re playing baseball. Inadequate stretching, improper shoes, and repeated motions lead to the most common foot problems that occur among baseball players, such as Achilles tendonitis, plantar fasciitis, shin splints, stress fractures, ankle sprains, and bone fractures. Baseball players should be aware of the following risks.
- Ankle sprains may occur while running, fielding balls, stepping on or sliding into bases. Sprains should be evaluated by a foot and ankle surgeon to determine the extent of injury, including possible peroneal tendon injuries or fractures. The foot and ankle surgeon will develop a treatment plan: failure to fully treat and rehabilitate a sprain may lead to chronic ankle instability and recurrent sprains.
- Overuse or excessive training may sideline some athletes with Achilles tendinopathy or heel pain (often plantar fasiciitis, or calcaneal apophysitis in children and adolescents).
- Contusions may occur from impact with the ball or contact with other players.
Baseball Shoes and Cleats
As with most athletic shoes, comfort is the most important element in choosing the right baseball shoe for you. Look for shoes with a roomy toe box that give your toes enough room to wiggle. The widest part of your foot should fit comfortably into the shoe without stretching the upper. Look for a snug heel to help keep your foot stable. Most importantly, remember to replace your baseball shoes after 70 to 75 hours of active wear.
For league play, cleats may be recommended to give you the traction needed for the surface in the diamond. Baseball cleats come in a variety of materials ranging from leather and synthetic materials (plastics) to rubber and metal. Be sure to follow the regulations of your league regarding the material allowed; many leagues no longer permit the use of metal spikes or cleats, particularly on artificial turf. Be sure to give yourself time to adjust to cleats by wearing them on the designated surface.
- Cleats may pose challenges in the forefoot and aggravation of neuromas, sesamoids, bunions, and hammertoes. To stay at the top of your game, ensure that cleats are fitted properly and have injuries evaluated by a foot and ankle surgeon.
If you suffer a foot or ankle injury during ANY sport, it is important to have it evaluated as soon as possible to avoid long-term problems associated with a neglected injury.