After the lazy days of summer, heading back to school with the more rigorous schedule of classes and sports activities is often difficult for student athletes. It is this group of tweens and teens that play sports that we need to be most concerned about, as they have a greater chance of overuse injuries.

About 20 percent of this age group has a weak foot. When the foot collapses entirely it causes instability, leading to gait and posture problems. This in turn can cause foot and ankle pain, night cramps, pain when walking or lower back pain. There is also a greater chance of injury to the epiphysis or growth center of bone. Injury to the epiphysis of the heel, knee or hip can cause a disturbance in the bone formation. The growing pains of children are, at times, due to pain of the apophyseal or heel growth plate.

Many of these problems and abnormalities can be avoided with stretching and strengthening exercises, conditioning programs, cross training and proper biomechanical foot support for walking and running gait, which will avoid trouble later in life.

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Dr. Robert F. Weiss, a Sport Podiatrist, was a member of the Medical Advisory Committee of the 1984 & 1988 Olympic Marathon Trials.