The 5 Most Common Football Injuries (and How to Prevent Them)
By Maren Auxier
The crisp feeling in the air reminds us that football season is around the corner. Football games are a time to come together to cheer on our favorite teams and players. It’s a good excuse to sip on an ice-cold beer and overindulge on unhealthy snacks. Regardless of whether you’re in it for the excitement, camaraderie or the just snacks, football season is a time of year that thousands of people look forward to year round.
However, football does not come without a price. Players commonly face debilitating injuries that can ruin seasons, or even careers. If you or a loved one plays football, read up on the most common football injuries and what you can do to prevent them.
5. Muscle Contusions
Muscle contusions are blows to the muscles that don’t result in structural damage. They are ranked as mild, moderate or severe, and typically cause a dull pain that is associated with bruising, swelling and sensitivity. They are generally more noticeable once a player has stopped playing and the muscles have had time to cool down.
Muscle contusions are hard to avoid in contact sports such as football. If you get a muscle contusion, treat it by doing the following:
Rest: You may have to sit a few games out, but it’s better to rest the muscle for a bit rather than to overdo it, which could cause more damage in the long run.
Ice: Wrap ice in a clean cloth and hold onto the affected area for 20 minutes. Alternate on and off for 20 minutes.
Compression: Lightly wrap the damaged area using a bandage.
Elevation: Raise the affected area above the heart.
4. Sprained Ankle
An ankle sprain occurs when the ligaments surrounding the ankle joint are stretched or torn. This can cause the ankle to become swollen or painful.
While sprains are a very common football injury, they can be avoided by bracing or wrapping the ankle before playing. In fact, research shows that, out of 1,000 people studied, there were 32.8 ankle sprains among those who had no taping or bracing, 4.9 among those who taped their ankles and a mere 2.6 people wearing ankle braces sprained their ankle.
3. Torn Meniscus
The meniscus is the cartilage in your knee that provides cushioning, and it moves in multiple directions. In football, you move forward, backward, laterally and diagonally, and your meniscus protects your knee as you make these movements. A torn meniscus, however, provides no cushioning, increasing your risk for greater injury.
While you can play through a meniscus tear, it is not recommended. Playing through a meniscus tear can increase the tear, and can also result in knee cartilage damage, which puts a person at a greater risk for pain and for developing arthritis.
To reduce the risk of tearing the meniscus, regular leg strengthening exercises are recommended. This helps to stabilize the knee joint, protecting it from injury. Playing with protective gear, such as a brace, will provide added support to your knee during game time, reducing your risk for injury.
2. MCL Injuries
The MCL is a ligament on the inner knee that connects the femur (thigh bone) to the tibia (lower leg). Its main function is to stabilize the inside of the knee. Most MCL injuries occur from direct impact, such as a blow to the back of the legs or outside of the knee.
To reduce your risk of an MCL tear, practice balance, strength and power exercises that focus on the thigh and hip muscles. Some suggest wearing a knee brace, however others advice against it. If you are considering wearing a knee brace, consult with your physician first.
1. ACL Injuries
ACL injuries are the most common football injury. This is a serious injury that typically requires surgery to heal. ACL surgery requires a tissue graft, generally taken from a patient’s knee, to reconstruct and create a new ACL. Recovery time is typically nine months, but can be shorter or longer, depending on the person and the extent of the injury.
ACL injuries in football players typically occur without contact, but instead result from a quick change in direction. To prevent an ACL injury, do exercises that focus on increasing balance, building strength and plyometrics such as planks, Nordic hamstrings and squats.
Preventing these common football injuries this fall will make the season more enjoyable this fall.