Presenter: Neal Howard
Guest: Dr. Robert Weil
Guest Bio: Dr. Robert Weil is a sports podiatrist who specializes in orthotics. He promotes safe and sensible advice for parents of young athletes. Host of The sports doctor on Healthy life radio Healthy life. Net network and also advocates and supports, “Ending Childhood Obesity” and “Blessings in a Backpack.”
Segment Overview: Dr. Robert Weil discusses the important role that the foot plays in sports.
Health Professional Radio
Neal Howard: Hello and welcome to Health Professional Radio. So glad you could join us today. I’m your host Neal Howard. With the football season coming to a close, we’re all focused on sports at some time or another either with our kids, with ourselves or just being a fan of college or a professional sports team. Our guest in studio today is Dr. Robert Weil. He is a sport podiatrist who specializes in orthotics that improve alignments, stability, balance and performance for athletes and non-athletes as well. He promotes safe and sensible advice for parents of young athletes and he also has a local radio show on WDCB public radio for over 20 years. He’s a local celebrity as a matter of fact from the Naperville Aurora area and he is here today to talk with us about kids and sports. How are you doing today?
Dr. Weil: It’s a pleasure to join you.
N: Thank you so much.
W: Just a little more information, Neal, for the past year I’ve been on healthylife.net. My show the ‘Sports Doctor’ on Wednesday some 3 to 4pm Central Standard Time. It’s my pleasure to join in with you on Health Radio.
N: Thank you so much for joining us here on hpr.fm, Health Professional Radio. Now, you are a podiatrist specializing in sports. When it comes to kids and sports, we all like to see our kids participate in sports. We’d like to see them sometimes possibly become professional at it or at least very good for those lasting memories down the line. But many times, we don’t understand the importance that certain body parts play in certain sporting activities.
W: You got to sing the song “the foot bone’s connected to the ankle bone connected to the knee bone” because the foot affects everything else. Kid sports are a big deal today. In Sports Doctor, we talk a lot about all these injuries and challenges that parents face when their son or daughter play sports because sometimes you see that the schedule and the demand on these young boys and girls and their growing bodies gets excessive. So, many times what we’re looking to do is we try to prevent injuries and problems on the one hand and then for those certain few who are very special, we’re interested in enhancing performance by strengthening the body and making sure you’re in the proper shoe, making sure you’re doing the right kind of strengthening exercises and all those things make big sense.
N: You’re talking about for those that show promise in a particular activity. There are certain regimens for strengthening and improving whereas another child who may not be athletically inclined, you’re there to kind of fix thing when they go wrong?
W: Well, we want to be able to be as healthy as we can. You know, we’re facing worldwide and in the United States especially, the epidemic with child obesity. I write a lot about that. People can go to my website sportsdoctorradio.com and read lots of articles. We want children to be active.
N: You are an advocate for the ending of the epidemic of obesity in children and also “Blessings in a Backpack.”
W: “Blessings in a backpack” is another great idea. It’s on the opposite side of the spectrum – children who are hungry, who don’t have enough to eat. They’re in subsidized programs. It’s everywhere in the country also your economic areas and they get sent home with of backpack of foods that they can have over the weekend where they might not really have anything to eat over the weekend. And so you have hungry children on the left with dozens in a backpack and you have childhood obesity which is a big, big conspiracy. We want kids to be active. I call them ‘prodigy sports’ – when you watch gymnastics, figure skating, tennis, soccer. You might have 10-12 year olds who are playing every day and sometimes, we then see that there are problems inherent to that where we’re just pounding those feet and legs. My poster boy, one of them is a 2010 men’s Olympic figure skating champion, the gold medalist who grew up here in Naperville Illinois, Evan Frank Lysacek. Evan was 10 years old when we put orthotics in his skates. In 2010, he won the Olympic gold medal – it’s one of the things I do a lot. So these young children who were doing something every day – a lot of them, we talked about that challenge of so-called ‘specialization’ concentrating on one sport. All the pediatricians and doctors would love kids to play lots of different sports. But in this day and age, sometimes you see the pressure is there if your son or daughter’s that talented, “Gee, you know, we’re gonna be here all year round around” – these kinds of things. Overuse injuries – injuries from repetitive motion injuries – whether it’s from the shoulders because you’ve been throwing a ball to many times like in the old little league stories or whether it’s your feet and ankles because you’re playing six days a week on a tennis court and that really demands that we do screening. A good physical therapist could take a look at this young boy or girl. Podiatrist – “Gee she/he’s got flat feet.” “Gee she/he’s got high arches.” “Gee she/he is very rigid.” “Gee I think his/her leg length is off.” These kinds of imbalances that we pay a lot of attention to on sports podiatry can really cause trouble when you’re running and jumping everyday. I put ballet and dance also in that group to say the least of this so called a ‘prodigy sport’ where we’re pushing the envelope and not taking these things into consideration. So many times, we’ll see somebody who’s had a lot of trouble specially girls and women with a little bit wider hip where they might have a lot of knee problems and many times, it’s related to the function of the foot. The foot is the first major shock absorber of the body. The foot’s the first major reliever system that pushes us off – that’s a fancy term for that. Also the ball and socket like motions that take on the foot and ankle. One is called “pronation,” you hear that term all the time when you’re buying running shoes or when we read a running magazine. Pronation allows the foot to absorb shock and then the word “supernation” which allows the foot to push us off. So when orthotics are done properly which are prescription inserts for shoes or skates, or skis. We might put orthotics in a 75 year old great grandma who’s got arthritis in her back or knees. They usually try to enhance stability, enhance balance and over the years, we’ve had some great success even going back to some athletes. I understand you’re calling from Kentucky.
N: Absolutely, yes. Basketball capital of the planet (chuckles) I’m feeling that right now.
W: I’m one of them. Yeah, I’m a local graduate. I used to see a lot of universities, women basketball players and volleyballs players. Had a girl, young girl from here – Jenny Mangel – who played for the university a little of 4 years in women’s volleyball. Great state, great sports, high-end stuff.
N: We love our basketball here and our football, too, but basketball is what we rave about. In your experience as a sports doctor and specializing in childhood sports, what is the most common injury that you see when kids come to you?
W: You know, the old ankle sprains still are the most common joints that’s injured and there’s a different kind of injuries. One might be called acute injuries, something that just happened. You know, “I stepped in a hole.” “I sprained something.” “I came down wrong.” “I came down on someone’s foot. All of a sudden. Aww! I got injured.” And what we call chronic or overuse injuries where there isn’t any incident per se so when children are growing, all the growth centers in the bones are still open and active so there’s a major growth center in the heel. So when we see young children who are playing soccer or other sports, we might see heel pain. We might see other kinds of shin splint, shin pain, ankle abuse as we start going from recreational running gym class to the gym. “My son is playing soccer three days a week, Doctor Weil.” As an example, yesterday, two kids were in the office. One is 9 ½ years old and he is already doing double jumps and figure skating and is also a ballroom dancer. We’re putting orthotics in his shoes and skates for balance and prevention. April was in, she’s 12 years old and she plays tennis nine days a week and her feet and knees are bothering her. We’re putting orthotics in her sneakers shoes to try to, again, reduce some of the torque and twisting that takes place around the knees. So all the joints can be susceptible with these kids. Growth related problems could be susceptible with these kids along with the things that’s everybody’s familiar with when you sprain something or you broke a bone, or you had some kind of tendinitis. Most of what I see is overuse, that combination of foot imbalance and by foot imbalance, a good example again, is flat pronated feet combined with excessive activity and now something hurts.
N: How involved are you in designing shoes specifically for a child where orthotics are necessary?
W: There’s a lot of a devices that over the counter that sometimes are good enough ‘doctor shawl,’ ‘super feet’ and others. But when we’re talking prescription we can usually put these flexible unbreakable devices in any shoe. We don’t need a special shoe. We don’t need a special brand, so regardless of the type of shoe that men or women or girl or boy is in, we should be able to put prescription device in the shoe with removable sole. I will get involved in recommending what might be an optimum shoe for you. “Is it Nike? Is it Adidas? Is it New Balance? Should I get a Motion shoe?” -these kinds of things. We definitely what to get involved in that. I’ll tell you something that’s interesting – 80% or higher of people who are athletic are not fit properly for their shoes.
N: Okay. Don’t you get fitted once you join the team?
W: Well, that’s great if the sponsor shoe fits you.
W: But many times, we see that a lot of people say, “You know, I was always size 9 – 9 ½.” There’s a lot of varying abilities in shoes. We tell people all the time regardless of the level of activity or your son’s or daughter’s activity, don’t buy shoes over the counter. Get fit properly as much as possible because, again, that statistics sometimes amazes people even in serious athletes. We can see that the shoes’ too narrow for this one, slightly tight for that one. So sometimes, we’ll see that we can recommend a particular type of shoe and there’s a lot of excellent shoes. One of my most popular articles is ‘Women in High Heels’ Maybe we’ll talk about that next segment (laughing).
N: Alright. You’ve been listening to Health Professional Radio. I’m your host Neal Howard. We’ve been in studio today talking with Dr. Robert Weil. He’s a podiatrist specializing in orthotics. We’ve been talking about some of the ways that our kids can hurt their feet playing sports or simply by not being well up to the challenge of sports and when Dr. Weil sees these kids, he can recommend either orthotics or maybe another activity altogether. It’s been great having you here with us Dr. Weil.
W: My pleasure. Thank you.
N: Thank you so much. Transcript and Audio of this program are available at hpr.fm and also at healthprofessionalradio.com.au and you can subscribe to our podcast on iTunes.