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The short answer is yes, unfortunately. Going back to school will mean that many students are returning to physical fitness classes, after-school activities—and not to mention, millions of student athletes of all ages are returning to their sports teams for grueling practices and games. Here are some simple tips for a safe return to school sports this fall.

Preventing Injuries: Shoes

The most important part of making a safe return to school is preventing injuries; and to make sure they don’t trip over their own two feet, students will want to be wearing a good pair of shoes. As foot and ankle consultants we mention it often, the feet form the foundation that holds up the body! Students and parents alike should check the fit and wear of their back-to-school athletic shoes—and don’t forget to check daily walking shoes too, (considering that the average grade school child takes approximately 12,000 steps or more a day!).

When it comes to athletic activities it is essential to find the best fitting pair of shoes and socks appropriate to each sport; whether it be cleats, tennis shoes or running shoes, they will provide much needed support and balance depending on the particularities of the sport. Keep in mind that when it comes to protective gear or specialized shoes for sports, this it is not the area where you necessarily want to get a bargain. Same goes for replacing worn-out shoes; it’s worth the investment because they can no longer offer student athletes the adequate protection they once did.

If we’re talking about balance, let’s not forget posture; after all, the feet and back are known to influence each other and determine a good or bad posture throughout life. Back-to-school means back to carrying plenty of textbooks and school supplies on a daily basis. Particularly, parents of smaller children should be keenly aware of the weight and fit of their kids backpacks to avoid excessive strain on their back and spine.

Note: We recommend backpacks that have two well-padded straps, or roll on the ground, rather than single-shoulder or messenger bags which unevenly distribute weight on the spine. Also, make sure that a backpack weighs a maximum of 15 percent of your child’s body weight.

Identifying Injuries and Recovery: Staying in Shape

How do you know if your child or teen is ready to return to school sports, and are they more or less susceptible to injuries for any reason?

The best way to tell if your student is ready for school sports is if they are regularly active; pay attention to their walk and run when they play. Do they limp every so often, or complain about a particular ankle or leg after a day of play? Ask your returning students if they feel any pains or bothersome sensations, and consider making an appointment if you suspect that old injuries have not completely healed. Any persistent pain in or around a joint is a bad sign, whether it be in the back, hip, knee or ankle.

Staying in shape during the summer with some light exercise can go a long way for returning students—this way it won’t feel as such a shock on the body to jump back into physical education classes and extracurricular activities. This won’t be difficult for parents of young kids, but parents of teenagers may have to get more creative in order to get them out of the house during the summer. Camps and clubs are helpful but not at all necessary; you can look for simple and affordable activities that will keep the family entertained and in action.

Even after prevention and preparation, can a school-sports injury still occur? Short answer: yes. Ultimately, no one can predict all of life’s accidents, especially when it comes to kids; but we can certainly be well-informed and aware of the possibilities. Once injured, will students have to return to school even with a cast or crutches? Yes it is likely, but we suggest to ask for assistance from school administrators so they can more easily get around on crutches—or if they are in fact staying at home to recover, make sure to ask for all the supplemental materials from teachers so they don’t fall behind in their classes.

These are our simple tips to remain injury-free and ready to learn this school year.

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