Playing football involves a lot of sudden stopping, starting, twisting and colliding with other players. It’s no surprise that the incidence of injury is high. Due to the strenuous nature of football, an injury can be devastating to your performance and can lead to many months of rehabilitation.
Most football injuries occur in the lower limb, particularly in the knee. The risk of injury increases with age and the amount of football you play. The majority of football injuries are caused by trauma, such as landing awkwardly from a jump. About a quarter of football injuries are due to over use and develop over time. Overuse injuries are usually seen at the end of a season.
Having a good knowledge of the types of injuries you may encounter can help you prevent them.
5 Common Football Injuries
The hamstring is a group of four muscles that run up the back of the thigh. They allow you to bend your leg at the knee. Hamstring tears are the most common injury in football players, usually caused by a sharp increase in speed. You are more likely to experience hamstring strain if your muscles are stiff from fatigue or improper warming up. Hamstring injuries can be severely painful. You will notice pain in the back of the thigh or the buttocks, especially when walking, bending over or straightening the leg. The area may feel tender and bruised. Glutes and hamstrings work together, having weak glutes can contribute to hamstring strain.
When the foot lands awkwardly it can turn inwards and stretches the outside of the ankle causing it to sprain. When the ankle sprains you may even hear a snapping or popping sound. Sprained ankles can become incredibly tender and bruised. The ankle will swell, making it difficult to put weight on it.
The meniscus is cartilage that sits on top of the tibia (shin bone) between the femur (thigh bone). Meniscus injuries tend to happen during a tackle when the leg twists. A small tear may clear up on it’s own but a major tear can mean that your knee will totally lock or give way. A serious tear may require surgery. Having strong quadriceps and hamstring muscles will help you avoid this injury. Meniscus injury is more of a concern for older players due to cartilage degeneration.
The ACL is a ligament within the knee joint. It’s responsible for making sure that the thigh doesn’t move excessively forward. If you’re landing on a twisted knee during tackling, or your leg over extends forwards it can cause the ACL to tear. You may hear a crack or pop at the time of injury and the knee joint usually swells up immediately. This injury will leave the knee feeling unstable and painful and may leave you unable to straighten your leg. Surgery is often used to treat ACL tears.
The adductors are muscles in the inner thigh which help pull your legs together. When they become strained, usually due to a sudden change in direction, small tears can occur. When the adductors become torn or strained it causes groin or inner thigh pain. The pain is sensitive to the touch and can make it difficult to stretch the inner thigh or hamstrings. The area may become swollen and bruised. Hernias can sometimes be mistaken for groin pain, so ensure you get a thorough diagnosis.
Doing fitness and resistance training will help you avoid injuries. Keep a particular focus on strengthening your legs, buttocks and back. Warming up before a game will decrease your chances of straining a muscle. Cooling down after a game is often neglected, but it will reduce post training aches and will stop your muscles from tightening, which prevents injury long term. Between training sessions and games it is critically important that you get adequate rest to repair muscle wear and tear.
If you do become injured you will need to find medical assistance as soon as possible. The R.I.C.E method (rest, ice, compression and elevation) will help slow down swelling and bruising. Taking NSAID’s (Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) will relieve inflammation in the area. Rehabilitation time can vary and restarting training should happen progressively.