The Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington metro area was buzzing with excitement in early July as they hosted the 2015 National Senior Games. More than 12,000 seniors from all over the country, age 50 and older, competed in 18-20 multisport events such as tennis, basketball, swimming, golf, track and field, table tennis, triathlon, volleyball, archery, bowling, cycling, badminton, bowling, race walk, road race, softball, shuffleboard, racquetball and pickle ball.
More than 35,000 visitors attended this 16-day event that showcased some of the country’s premier senior athletes. Beyond age, some of them had to overcome major physical obstacles. Some were cancer survivors. Some had pacemakers. Some had major reconstructive foot and ankle surgery, or total knee and hip replacements. Some had ACL repairs, or rotator cuff repairs and back surgery. Some were even there because they were a part of a generation that wouldn’t allow them to compete during their youth. The games were a personal vision quest for many. All of the athletes shared a common denominator: They had vigor for life and refused to let age get in their way.
During the summer months, athectic and recreational programs are in full swing. Despite the differences among the sports, seniors are susceptible to foot injuries. Here are some of the more common questions my senior patients ask me and foot care tips for tennis, golf, and running.
TENNIS: Tennis is particularly stressful on your feet because of the quick starts and stops and lateral movements. Common tennis foot problems include ankle sprains, stress fractures, plantar fasciitis, and tennis toe.
If you have weak ankles or history of sprains, wear a simple ankle brace inside your shoe. Select a stable tennis shoe that is not too rigid and provides flexibility to perform. The shoe should provide durable toe support. Custom orthotics is recommended to provide arch and joint support. Proper warm-up and stretching are also important. These actions will help flexibility, relieve foot pain, and extend playing time.
GOLF: Golf is stressful on your feet and ankles because of excessive walking up and down hills. Common problems for golfers include: tendonitis, capsulitis, and ligament sprains and pulls that keep the golf enthusiasts off the greens. Improper shoes can also cause blisters and neuromas, and other foot and ankle pain.
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Walking up and down hills is a normal motion that puts abnormal stress on your Achilles tendon. Walking on uneven surfaces puts a lot of strain on the tendons along the outer portion of the ankle. If you don’t stretch beforehand, you will put a lot of wear and tear on your muscles that may lead to severe tendonitis. If you use arch supports in your shoes, you will be surprised how much better your feet feel at the end of a round of golf.
RUNNING: Gravity tends to come into play more during running and considerably more stress is placed on your feet. The 26 bones, 33 joints, 112 ligaments, and network of tendons, nerves, and blood vessels all work together in the foot while running and take on maximum stress. Common foot problems that occur are blisters, corns, calluses, athlete's foot, shin splints, Achilles tendonitis, and plantar fasciitis.
Runners should properly condition their body, build a routine, and stretch their muscles, tendons, and ligaments before and after each run. Proper running shoes are critical. Shoes should provide flexibility in the right places to help with shock absorption. More rigidity is needed in the middle of the foot. The heel should sit low in the shoe and the cushioned sole should be slightly wider than a walking shoe to absorb impact. Custom orthotics will reduce stress on lower extremities and allow you to run with less fatigue. Keep your feet powdered and dry, and wear clean socks. Shoes hold moisture so alternate shoes with each run. If you develop recurring and/or increasing aches and pains, contact a podiatrist to help pinpoint the problem and prevent more serious injury or long-term damage to your feet.
It’s important to consult with your physician before you begin a fitness program. If you are participating in athletic and fitness activities for this summer and feeling pain in your feet or ankles, don’t wait to get it checked. Remember to condition yourself properly to include all-around body strength and flexibility. Select shoes especially designed for the activity you are participating in and follow proper foot care hygiene. Stretching your calf muscles before and after play is important. Pay attention to what your feet are telling you.
Contact John Sigle, DPM, or Grant Gonzalez, DPM, at the Foot & Ankle Center of Illinois (217) 787-2700 or visit myfootandanklecenter.com for more information. They can help you enjoy the activities you want to do without pills and surgery. The Foot & Ankle Center of Illinois is located St. Mary’s Hospital, 1900 East Lake Shore Drive, Decatur, IL, and at 2921 Montvale Drive, Springfield, IL.