As the summer approaches, and after remaining indoors for the long, cold winter months, we find ourselves anxious to spend time outdoors. Children, in particular, are excited to participate in a variety of outdoor games and activities. Although fun, some activities, such as jumping on a trampoline or climbing on monkey bars, present the risk of causing foot trauma.
Simply walking or running can cause trauma to the foot of a child. With their inherent curious nature, children may explore uneven terrain which may result in foot injury. Sometimes it is not until hours or even days later when parents become aware of their child’s injured foot!
Especially with children, it is very important not to ignore any pain after an injury. Pain occurring in the foot or lower extremity must be addressed immediately by a medical professional. Sometimes parents prefer to observe a child with a limp for a few days. This should not be the case. While the traditional first aid treatment with RICE (rest, ice, compression, elevation) is helpful, all pain of the foot must be addressed by a medical professional immediately. Walking on a potential injury could have serious detrimental consequences.
Even if pain does not exist, it is prudent that a trained medical provider evaluate a young patient after an injury. Sometimes even a non-painful limp or strange walk after a trauma can be quite serious.
What to Expect
A child who visits the podiatrist due to a foot injury, will most likely receive radiographs of the foot and ankle. Radiographs will help determine if bone damage of the foot occurred. However, it is important to realize not all fractures show up on radiographs. In some situations, more advanced imaging modalities are necessary for evaluation of the foot.
In many instances, pediatric fractures occur at epiphyseal growth plates. These epiphyseal growth plates represent segments of bone which have not yet fused together. It is sometimes difficult to distinguish a pediatric fracture versus a normal growth plate. For this reason, radiographs are sometimes taken of both sides of the child’s foot.
In almost all cases, the injured foot or ankle will be immobilized. Choice of immobilization methods are decided on a case-by-case basis.
Ignoring a Potential Fracture of the Foot
Ignoring a fracture of the foot can have detrimental consequences. As mentioned, the pediatric patient is unique in that growth plates are present. Sometimes a fracture occurring at an epiphyseal growth plate may cause a limb length discrepancy (in which one leg appears shorter than the other). An untreated fracture could also cause a permanent limp or pain.
Of course, prevention of pediatric lower-extremity-injury is ideal. Proper shoe gear- well-fitting supportive sneakers- is quite important for the active pediatric patient. Barefoot walking, both indoors and outdoors, is not recommended. Sandals, especially of the flip-flop type, should be worn only around a pool. They are not appropriate when walking for longer periods.
Regarding trampoline play, parents must be extra cautious. Multiple children jumping on a trampoline many times results in children falling on top of one another.
We wish our patients, especially the young ones, an active, enjoyable, and injury-free summer!
Dr. Sharon Weibman, DPM, is a board-certified podiatrist with over 15 years of experience. She sees patients at RefuahHealth’s Main Street and Twin Avenue locations.