Harder Ground: Higher Risk - KAUZ-TV: Newschannel 6 Now | Wichita Falls, TX

Harder Ground: Higher Risk

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The drought has had a huge impact on the community, but it is also impacting athletes.

The ground isn't getting the moisture it needs, so it's getting dry and hard.  For athletes, this can lead to injuries.

Seretha Elkins, a physical therapist at OSTC in Wichita Falls said, "We see what people would call shin splints, either on the inside of the lower leg or the outside of the lower leg."

She also said they see achilles tendonitis and plantar fasciitis, which is the pain on the bottom of the foot, and they also see stress fractures.  However, those aren't the only injuries to be concerned about.  The Athletic Trainer for Hirschi High School, Steven Offield, said concussions and knee injuries are also a problem.

With the ground being so hard, if an athlete falls to the ground and hits their head, they are more likely to get a concussion on this harder ground.  As for the knees, the ground doesn't give way as much, so athletes are more prone to rotating their knees the wrong way or too much.

However, coaches are being extra careful with their athletes and making sure the communication is there.

"We don't go as hard in practice as we used to, as we are used to going," Midwestern State University Softball Coach Brady Tigert said.

He explained the Lady Mustangs don't slide on the field during practice and games as much anymore because the ground is too hard.  Tigert said this will put too much strain on their bodies. 

MSU has started to utilize their water wells to water their grass, but they only have one sprinkler.  This makes it difficult for the grass to get the water it needs.

The good news is MSU's Head Athletic Trainer said they haven't seen an increase of injuries due to the drought.  One of the main reasons is communication.

Elkins said, "The most important thing I think is great communication between coaches, athletes, physicians, and athletic trainers all working together."

She explained coaches need to take the time to get to know their athletes.  This can include previous injuries, where they are right now, and their potential.  Athletes also need to learn to trust their coaches.  If something doesn't feel right, they should feel comfortable telling their coach.

With Stage 5 restrictions getting closer to being enacted, coaches are feeling the pressure.

Tigert said, "Going into Stage 5 is scary for us.  I'm used to watering my field pretty much every day.  This season obviously that has been blown out of the water."

With the ground being as hard as it is now, Tigert said it needs to be watered as much as possible before games and before practice.  He said if the area doesn't get rain, it could lead to more injuries.  However, he is already looking into ways to help his athletes out.  He is considering changing their conditioning a little if it gets worse.

Offield also said he is worried about Stage 5 restrictions.  He said the athletes will be working on their conditioning a lot more to make sure they are getting stronger to prevent any injuries.

Gary Diehm, Head Athletic Trainer for MSU, said athletes need to make sure they are getting treatment if there is a problem.

"If you have a problem, report it so we can start dealing with it early on," Diehm said.

An injury will get worse if no one is aware of it, or it they catch it too late.  Athletes sometimes push through the pain, but this affects the lot in the long run.  Sometimes it leads to surgery.

One of the unique things the coaches at MSU are doing is not having their athletes training on the same field every day.  They will rotate so the wear and tear on the fields isn't as bad.

Another good tip is to wear the right type of shoes.  Everyone is built differently, therefore spending extra money for a good pair that fit your feet right can save you money in the long run in doctors visits and surgery.

Alexandra McClung, Newschannel 6