It’s nearly here. The highlight of many people’s year. The Football World Cup! The excitement is building and the discussions and debates have started. Who is the team to beat?; who are the underdogs?; is it (finally) going to be England’s tournament?
Regardless of what happens (we have all our fingers and toes crossed) what we hope for most is an injury free tournament. Football has one one of the highest injury rates of all sports which is not surprising as it is the most played sport in the world – at both grass root and international level.
We are going to take a look at some of the most common football injuries and also ways to prevent these.
As you can see in the above infographic hamstring strains are the most common injury in football. These can range from a slight strain to a severe tear. Symptoms usually consist of a sudden sharp pain at the back of the thigh which really hurts! Hamstring strains most often occur when sprinting or performing a fast stretching movement such as a high kick.
Up next for most common football injury and following closely behind the hamstring is the groin. A groin strain is an injury or tear to any of the adductor muscles of the thigh, which are the muscles on the inner side of the thigh. An acute groin strain is usually caused by sudden movements such as kicking, twisting to change direction while running, or jumping.
Another very common injury in football is an ankle injury. Ranging from sprains through to torn ligaments, a bad ankle injury can take you out of action for weeks. Ankle injuries are most commonly sustained when running and changing direction quickly, or when tackling or being tackled. These injuries are mostly an inversion sprain which is when the ankle rolls out laterally or externally.
You knew it was coming! As with so many sports the knee is high up there for football injuries. Torn ACL ligaments are most common, with torn meniscus cartilage coming in at a close second. The problem with both of these knee injuries is that they have long recovery periods (we are talking months and months) and also often require surgery.
The ACL is the anterior cruciate ligament which is situated deep within the knee joint and has the job of maintaining the position of the Tibia (shin bone) underneath the Femur (thigh bone). The majority of these injuries occur in a non-contact situation at a point where the player lands or decelerates with a twisting motion. Injury to the ACL can also occur following side on contact such as a slide tackle from an opponent.
The meniscus are two rings of cartilage which sit on top of the Tibia , between this and the Femur. This cartilage most commonly gets torn when the foot is in a fixed position but the knee rotates, often duirng a tackle. It is also much more common in older players due to degeneration of the cartilage.
If an injury does happen the most important thing to do to help aid a quick recovery is RICE. The sooner you can get ice on to the injury the better! If pain continues after 48 hours it is important to see a medical practitioner – and if physio is needed then we are always here to help!
Now we have looked at the most common football injuries, how can we help to prevent these?
Hopefully we are preaching to the converted. Everyone knows how important a warm up is, right? You would think so but the number of patients who don’t really appreciate just how important it is is pretty mind blowing. There are also many who do appreciate it but still don’t warm up. The aim of a warm up is to increase the muscle temperature and range of motion. Performing a warm-up consisting of light aerobic work (e.g. jogging/cycling/skipping), active (or dynamic) stretching (e.g. walking lunges/heel to bum/high knees) and skill drills can dramatically reduce the chance of injury. The warmer and more prepared your muscles are the less chance they will get injured. Simple as that.`
In many cases injuries occur when a person is getting tired and fatigued. The best way to avoid this is to be ‘sport’ fit. Your training should replicate your sport. So a footballer’s training, for example, should involve sprinting, then jogging, a short walk and back to a sprint.
- Resistance training
Resistance, or strength training can greatly benefit a players performance and also reduce the risk of injury. Strength is mostly required in the legs, although the core and upper body should not be forgotten as they play a role in centring the player and maintaining balance.
- Cool down
As important as the warm up, not performing a thorough cool down is a mistake made by too many – too often. A cool down helps to reduce muscle aching over the following 48 hours but it also has a longer term effect on injury prevention. Research has shown that stretching the muscles following sport will help to reduce the post-exercise tightening of muscles. Over a long period reducing this tightness will help reduce the chance of injury.
There are other ways you can help prevent football injuries. Did you know that Ryan Giggs actively practiced and promoted yoga throughout his football career? He was one of oldest players to play in the Premier League and says that yoga added 10 years to his football career. As well as using it as an injury prevention tool he also used it to aid recovery after a game. Why not give it a go?
So there you have it. You are now well informed on football injuries and ways to help prevent these. Let’s hope that while watching this year’s football world cup that all the players stay injury free.
Enjoy the games and may the best team win!
FIFA Big Count 2006