I was once an elite athlete who competed at the Commonwealth and was named to an Olympic team. Following an injury a Pedorthist helped me get back on my feet. After chatting with him about the profession I was hooked. I knew pedorthics was the career for me.
Today, there is nothing I enjoy more than watching sports on TV and seeing one of the athletes I have helped accomplish their goals. One of my favourite memories is watching an elite high jumper set a Canadian record in Europe after I had modified his high jump spike. The icing on the cake was when I received a call from Nike shortly after the competition asking if they could duplicate the spike I had created.
Over the years I have helped a lot of elite athletes stay in their sport. I have worked with many Canadian national teams, including track and field, badminton, gymnastics, bobsleigh, downhill skiing, swimming, figure skating and triathlon. Each sport has its own unique array of injuries. For example, sprinters often suffer from forefoot or heel pain but figure skaters are more likely to suffer from inflammation in the hip. However, one of the most common injuries I see with all athletes is Achilles tendon problems as most sports put stress on that tendon.
When I meet with elite athletes I always tell them to look at the footwear they wear when they are not training. I remember at the 2004 Olympics each athlete was given flimsy sandals to wear during their non-training times. The foot and ankle clinic was inundated with athletes suffering from plantar fasciitis (heel pain). We told every athlete who visited the clinic to discontinue wearing the sandals and use their running shoes instead. Approximately 98 per cent found their plantar fasciitis got better within days.
The biggest mistake many elite athletes make is wearing footwear that is not properly fitted. Soccer players and track athletes tend to wear shoes that are too short as they claim this gives them a better feeling for the playing surface. This is a mistaken, costly belief as ill-fitting shoes can lead to foot injuries.
Whatever their sport, I recommend all elite athletes visit a Canadian Certified Pedorthist each time there is a major change in their training regime. At absolute minimum they should go for an annual consultation. Their Pedorthist will ensure their orthoses are working for optimum performance and that their footwear is not causing them harm. A Pedorthist could be the difference between being on the podium or on the sidelines.
By Mike Forgrave, C. Ped (C), Waterloo, ON