(NC) Staying healthy is the single most important consideration for anyone playing sports — or at least it should be, explains Graham Rynbend, Head Athletic Therapist with the Montreal Canadiens. When it comes to fitness aspirations he is quick to point out that most people fail to achieve their goals because they equate fitness with good health.

While health clubs are filled to the brim with the pre- and post-holiday crowd bent on losing weight, building muscles and getting into shape, good health requires a greater vision and commitment. This includes proper nutrition, getting adequate sleep, managing stress and taking action quickly when you don’t feel well or get injured.

According to Rynbend, the feet are often overlooked and yet their condition is essential, especially for hockey players who rely on the feet and toes for balance, pushing off and turning. There are many leg and foot conditions that can be troublesome he says, but one of the most common is toenail fungus infection.

“In addition to being embarrassing and ugly, toenail fungus infections can be uncomfortable and painful,” says Rynbend. “Our team’s doctors like to prescribe a topical medication that is applied directly to the nail. I like it because it is effective and, unlike some of the pills, it does not affect the liver, so players don’t need to have regular blood tests.”

In addition to paying more attention to your feet, Graham offers these tips:

• Don’t think you need to tough it out. See a medical specialist if you suspect you have an infection or injury. If it is a toenail fungus infection it will not go away on its own.

• Keep equipment sanitized — there is special equipment available to disinfect skates and ski boots.

• Listen to your body. Training is important, but you need to stay healthy overall to perform your best.

For more information about toenail fungus infections talk to your doctor or visit www.nailfungus.ca.

Attention editors: This article is for distribution in Quebec only.