Football is a sport that is played in more than 200 countries. 265 million people actively play the sport worldwide, which accounts for nearly 4% of the world’s population. (Madison, 2020). It is a contact sport and therefore, there is a higher risk of injury compared with other sports. You are at risk of injuring your legs, arms, head and neck, no matter how much practice and skill you have. But keeping your passion in mind, these injuries should not stop you from playing again.
Here are a few common football injuries and their effective treatment protocols for an early return to the sport.
1. Ankle sprain:
Ankle sprain or Achilles tendon tear is the most common football injury. An ankle injury can be caused by many events, including when the foot is excessively flexed and/ or inverted, causing a ligament sprain. It can also occur if a player goes in for a tackle, and another people lands on the foot while it is being overextended. Ankle sprains in sports are managed acutely by applying ice packs and following the RICE protocol which stands for Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation.
2. The Unhappy Triad:
As the name suggests, this injury involves three structures, the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), the medial meniscus, and the medial collateral ligament (MCL).
Research shows a 25% incidence of the unhappy triad in knee injuries within contact sports. Damage to these structures, will cause your knee to become unstable causing severe pain and limping, hence why it got the name “Blown knee”.
You can prevent the triad injury by wearing a protective knee brace during practices and applying athletic tape during the game.
3. Hamstring pull:
The stabilization of the knee during turns and tackles in football is the function of the hamstring muscles. It also contracts to control the running speed and kicking of the ball. A forceful kick or excessive knee extension with high speed can cause hamstring strains. Just like any other muscle strain, a hamstring strain results from microtrauma of the muscle and its tendons leading to pain, swelling, redness and warmth at the site of injury. This injury reduces hamstring flexibility and strength, as it does not allow the muscle to completely relax to its regular length.
In the acute stage, football players can use an ice pack to reduce the swelling, and in chronic stages, a hot pack is recommended to promote healing and subside the pain.
4. Shin splints:
A “shin splint” is characterized by pain in the front of the leg or shin bone. It is caused due to overuse of the muscles in the front of the leg. Specifically, in football players, a “shin splint” is evident in training sessions when a player practices without an appropriate resting period.
Due to the nature of the injury, it is best treated with rest and bracing but heavy braces are not required. Kinesiology taping promotes healing of the overused tissues, as it provides compression and increases circulation in the area.
Concussion injuries are injuries to the brain due to a hit on the head. The hit causes the brain to be “shaken” or “jolted” in some way. Research shows that 22% of all football injuries are concussion injuries.
The symptoms of a concussion include headaches, nausea, memory loss, confusion, tinnitus, dizziness, unconsciousness, and excessive fatigue. Always seek medical advice if you believe you are suffering with a concussion.
Most football injuries are effectively managed through conservative treatments. The treatment options available include,
- Ice packs: In the acute stage of any sports injury, you should apply a cold pack. The effect of a cold pack is to reduce blood flow to the area, reducing signs of inflammation and swelling. It can start to help immediately alongside medication and has recently been considered the first-line physical therapy practice for acute injuries.
- Hot packs: If you have a football injury that is persistent and is still causing pain, then you must consider applying a hot pack to the area. The heating effect increases blood flow to the region which induces muscle relaxation.
- Kinesio tapes: All football players, whether at practice or during the game, can benefit from Kinesio taping. The tape mimics the natural elasticity and contraction of the muscles; thus providing protection, support, and aids in healing the injured tissues.
- Protective braces: The function of protective braces is to limit the range of motion of the involved joint and give sufficient rest to the injured body part. Ankle sprains, knee injuries, and upper limb dislocations are best prevented and treated with bracing.
- Foam rollers and massage rollers: Foam rollers work to increase muscle flexibility after strains. It is an effective technique for hamstring pull or back strain.