Sports fans have all seen it: an athlete falls in a game and hits their head. We wait breathlessly for the concussion protocol results and hope for the best. 

It might surprise you that serious head injuries during athletics are not solely caused by collisions. Research shows that athletes can get literally tripped up by their footwear. 

Science is working to make athletic footwear safer. Meanwhile, you can reduce your risk.

The Risk of Concussion for Athletic Enthusiasts

Sports players and athletes are at a higher risk of sports injuries than most, but anyone who participates in vigorous activity can be at risk of concussion, including young children, older adults, and pedestrians. 

These injuries are caused by a blow to the head, including those caused by falls. 

We should all know the symptoms of a concussion, which include: 

  • Headache;
  • Confusion;
  • Temporary memory loss, especially of the injury;
  • Nausea;
  • Vomiting;
  • Ringing in the ears;
  • Drowsiness;
  • Dizziness; 
  • Blurry vision. 

Both amateur and professional athletes who participate in contact sports are vulnerable to concussion. NFL players are at the highest risk and now have a strictly enforced concussion protocol to protect players. 

The protocol includes removing the player from the field, then reviewing the tape of the play, surveying the player about symptoms, and an exam that includes a neurological and physical review. Speech, eye movement, gait, and cervical spine are all examined.

Athletes should go through the healing and recovery process with a sports medicine team. Because their background is tailored to competitive sports, they have the skills to assess the extent of the injury and determine long-term prognosis. 

They can create a recovery plan for returning to athletics and reduce the risk of future injury. They also coordinate with the coaching staff to help reduce injury risk for the whole team.

Anyone who has suffered a concussion must care for their physical and mental health while recovering. Serious injury can harm mental wellness, so patients should get treatment for both. 

They may need to work through their emotions through journaling or other creative expression. 

While we may often think that a blow to the head is the only culprit behind concussion, the type of shoes an athlete wears can also play a major role in preventing these types of injuries. 

Shoe Design & Concussion

Improper foot traction can make an athlete fall. Contact sports in inclement weather make turf slippery, like a football game in cold rain. This contributes to injuries, but research suggests shoes can also be the cause.

Take the Olympic sport of curling, a non-contact sport that does not regulate shoe choices for players. A recent survey of Canadian curling athletes with injuries showed that 90% of curling accidents were caused by falls, and over 30% of those involved head injuries. 

The study states that of the respondents, “41.3% attributed their fall to a lack of proper footwear and 73.5% of respondents agreed with mandatory sport-specific footwear as a prevention strategy.” 

The athletes believe poor footwear choice poses a head injury hazard. And that means that shoes can contribute to falls and concussions.

Athletic Footwear & Finding the Right Traction

If improved traction reduces injuries that lead to falls, then proper traction is necessary when choosing the correct shoe for a sport. But different shoes handle traction differently. 

According to recent research, injuries were more likely and more severe for shoes with rotational traction, while injury risk was reduced with forward-motion traction. 

Unfortunately, most shoemakers don’t supply details on a shoe’s traction because many variables impact it. The most important way to find the right shoe is to try it and try the moves you’ll make on the field. 

If the shoe slips, you’ll be more likely to fall and suffer injury. One other tip: if you are buying cleats for team sports, buy those that have shorter cleats grouped in the front, rather than those with large cleats or nodules outside the sole.

Choose the Right Athletic Footwear

Choosing the best athletic footwear means finding the best fit for your particular needs. If your feet are flat or overpronated, or if you suffer from plantar fasciitis, tendonitis, or arthritis, you should not buy a standard shoe but one that compensates for these issues. 

You may also benefit from footwear with motion control. This hard, plastic arch provides more stability, especially for pronation, and leads to better stability - and potentially fewer falls - when playing.

On the other hand, stability shoes provide more flexibility for people without these foot challenges. And cushioned shoes, for now, are your best option for absorbing shock.

Athletic shoes must withstand the impact of your preferred activity on your shoe. If you’re uncertain what to choose, visit an athletic or running shoe store for expert advice. 

People who participate in athletics should know the signs of concussion and take steps to reduce their risk. Engineers and scientists are working on footwear to improve safety that will be available in the future. 

For now, select the best choice to support your athletic activities safely. 


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