Football is one of the most popular competitive sports in America. Children, teens, and adults play football both recreationally and some adults even play professionally. There are a variety of injuries that can occur in football players, that are either acute (occur suddenly) or happen as a result of overuse and repetitive motions.
Football is a high contact sport, and players are typically prone to injuries like sprains, strains, dislocations and fractures. Players where a variety of padding and protective gear to help guard against injury, but these conditions still occur due to the nature of football, where the players collide with each other, the ball, and the field.
A medical professional should be consulted to properly diagnose football related injuries. When sports health professionals are not available the coach will need to care for an injured athlete. Immediate care of strains, sprains, dislocations, and fractures includes avoiding movement of the injured site, applying ice, and splinting when support is needed to stabilize an injury.
- Excessive stretching and tearing of muscle or tendon fibers from strains usually occur in the muscle or where the muscle attaches to the tendon.
- A sudden violent action that forces the joint beyond its limits can result in a complete tear of a ligament, which then progresses to a joint dislocation or fracture of a bone in the joint.
- Severe injuries to the joints of 8 to 15 year olds can result in an avulsion fracture that involves the growth plate. If not treated properly by sports health team this injury could result in bad long-term effects.
- Colliding with another player, the ball, or the field can cause a traumatic injury like a fracture.
There are intrinsic and extrinsic risk factors for injury. Intrinsic factors are a child’s individual musculoskeletal issues, which can include skeletal immaturity (bones and joints that are still developing) or muscle weakness. Extrinsic factors are the environment in which an athlete performs, which can include the level of competition: how much, how hard and how long play lasts.
Other common risk factors for football injuries include:
- Muscle strains that occur when a player has not properly warmed up prior to a practice or game.
- Prolonged intense activity also puts muscles and tendons at risk of injury.
- After having a strain the athlete must rehabilitate completely to decrease the risk of re-injury.
- Muscles most commonly involved in strains are the hamstring, quadriceps (thigh muscles), and gastrocnemius (calf muscle).
Prevention and Performance
The best way to avoid football related injuries is to be trained in proper technique and mechanics. Additionally, proper training and conditioning so that players are prepared for the demands on the game whether playing recreationally or competitively is crucial to avoiding the occurrence of injury. Players should also be properly outfitted in the necessary protective equipment.
Other ways to avoid injury include:
- Proper conditioning and common sense decrease the risk of injury.
- Conditioning programs designed by health care professionals like sports physical therapists will allow tendons and ligaments to adjust to activity, decreasing the chance of injury.
- Stretching and slow warm-up exercises have been shown to reduce the occurrence of muscle strain injuries.
- An athlete must fully rehabilitate after an injury to decrease the risk of re-injury or injuring another body part.
- Sprains, strains, and dislocations have a higher risk of re-injury than fractures. A bone will usually heal even stronger than before at the fracture site.
- Heat injuries are very common in football. It is important to avoid over heating by practicing at cooler times during the day, decrease amount of equipment worn on hot humid days, and consume plenty of fluids.
- Despite the players wearing helmets, concussions do occur during football
- Have a preseason health and wellness evaluation
- Consistently incorporate strength and flexibility training.
- Stay active during the summer months to prepare for return to sports in the fall.
- Wear properly fitting protective equipment, such as helmets, pads, and mouth-guard.
- Tackle with the head up and on not lead with the helmet.
- Speak with sports health professionals including physicians, sports physical therapists, and athletic trainers if there are concerns about the prevention and treatment of sports related injuries.
- Did you know that young athletes are more likely to suffer a fracture than strain or sprain? The sites where ligaments and tendons attach are growth plate. Until these sites mature to bone they are weaker than ligaments or tendons. Therefore stress applied to these sites will fracture the growth plate
- Did you know that the most common muscles that are strained are the hamstring and quadriceps muscles of the thigh and the gastrocnemius (calf muscle)? Injuries will generally occur at the start of exercise or at high intensity interval during the exercise session.
- Did you know the most common joints to be sprained in football are the ankle, knee, and shoulder?
- Did you know that the common ACL injury is a sprain of the anterior cruciate ligament? Knee sprains are among the most common football injuries.