Prevent Common Injuries this Football Season

Prevent Common Injuries this Football Season

With football season upon us, we’ll be hearing about all the different injuries that can occur while playing this high-impact sport. The types of injuries range from minor aches and sprains to serious head injuries and broken bones. Though not unique to football, the risk of injury is higher than other sports due to the intense and physical nature of the game. Frequent collisions during tackling and blocking; spur of the moment pivots and directional adjustments; and, speed changes can all contribute to musculoskeletal injuries and head trauma.

Football injuries are common and they don’t discriminate. Kids, high school and college athletes, and professional players risk life and limb during this exciting and action packed sport every time they take the field. Even pick-up games in the park or flag football can result in injury, if not careful. Two common football injuries are to the knee and head. Both are dangerous and can have long term affects.

The most common football injury affects the leg, specifically the knee. Rips and tears to the anterior or posterior cruciate ligament (ACL/PCL), the medial collateral ligament (MCL), and to the menisci (cartilage) in the knee can adversely affect a player’s long term prospects. Not only painful and limiting, these injuries can take a long time to heal. The constant, and at times erratic, movements involved in football make these areas susceptible and sensitive to damage.

Another common injury that gets a lot of press is the concussion. This type of head injury is one of the most serious a player can incur as it can severely impact cognitive function, causing confusion, physical and mental perception issues, and memory loss. A concussion occurs through head trauma, resulting from a hard hit or impact to the head, which causes the brain to move violently in the skull. The severity and number of concussions a player endures, can lead to negative, long-term consequences. The damage to the brain can affect specific areas that control the body’s physical and mental functions. Some of the long-term effects linked to concussions include, major depression, personality changes, and mood fluctuations.

One of the ways to help protect against sports injuries of any kind is through prevention. In football, the right equipment can be the difference between a minor or serious injury. Players should wear appropriate and properly fitting protective equipment such as pads, helmets, mouth guards. Stability pads and braces to prevent reoccurring knee injuries are common.

Strength training is a major factor in sports injury prevention. To be effective, a defined and controlled strength training program must be used to reduce the chance of injury. Both major muscle groups and the smaller muscles should be exercised. Smaller muscles provide stability to complex joints like the shoulders, knees, and ankles. Using the proper technique when targeting these areas will help them withstand repetitive use and abuse. Using the wrong technique may harm the body and reduce the muscle or joint’s effectiveness by putting undue pressure on those critical areas.

Combined with strength training, physical conditioning is also important. Muscular endurance and physical endurance go hand in hand. By increasing the body’s ability to handle repetitive movements, the risk of harm to the body is decreased. Flexibility and range of motion also help the body adapt to repetitive action on the field that can cause muscle pulls, sprains, and other injuries.

The right equipment and effective strength and conditioning programs are great preventative measures to take, but proper body mechanics and technique are also important. Keeping the body properly aligned, using the right body mechanics, and performing the correct technique used to tackle, move, and run all reduce the chance of injury and can prevent the seriousness of an injury.

Whether you are a player or a football fan, understanding common injuries, what causes them, and how to prevent them add to a greater appreciation for the sport. Talk to your doctor to learn more about how football injuries occur, steps to prevent them, and how to treat them, if necessary.

Kids and Concussions: A Parent Primer on Initial Assessment

To Your Health
August, 2016 (Vol. 10, Issue 08)

Kids and Concussions: A Parent Primer on Initial Assessment

By Editorial Staff

You’re at your 10-year-old’s soccer game and he’s just collided with a member of the opposing team while fighting for a ball in the air. Unfortunately, the two hit heads and both leave the field crying, but clearly conscious.

It’s a youth game on an elementary-school field, so barring the presence of parent who happens to be a doctor, there’s no one around to evaluate either child for a possible concussion. What to do? In many cases, both children will return to the game a few minutes later. Big mistake.

Concussions are serious whenever and wherever they occur, but unlike professional sports, when children suffer a possible concussion, there’s often no one around to evaluate it properly. Here’s what you can do to help identify some of the often-subtle signs of a concussion and make the informed decision to get further evaluation from a health care professional.

Clear Indicators

First, let’s start with the most severe case: If a child experiences any of the following symptoms, particularly immediately after a collision or fall in which they struck their head, they need to go to the ER immediately for evaluation, according to KidsHealth.org:

  • Loss of consciousness
  • Severe headache / headache that worsens
  • Blurred vision
  • Difficulty walking
  • Confusion / not making sense
  • Slurred speech
  • Unresponsiveness (unable to be awakened)

kids and concussions - Copyright – Stock Photo / Register Mark

Of course, many children may not display any of those symptoms following a head impact, but still be at risk for concussion, so it’s important to evaluate the child with some a simple battery of initial tests that, if nothing else, will alert you to the fact that the child should a) be removed from the game; and b) seek medical attention. Here are a few of the ways you can get a sense of what may be going on. These and other variables are all part of the Sport Concussion Assessment Tool, which is used by health care professionals to help assess concussion symptoms:

Ask Questions

  • What month is it?
  • What is the date today?
  • What is the day of the week?
  • What year is it?
  • What time is it right now? (within one hour)

You can also ask the child questions specific to the event in which they are participating, such as:

  • At what venue (field, tournament, city, etc.) are we at today?
  • Which half is it now?
  • Who scored last in this game?
  • What team did you play last week / game? Did your team win the last game?

Give Them a List

Say a short list of words (example: apple, bubble, elbow, carpet, saddle) to the child and then have them recite the list back to you in any order. Repeat several times and assess how accurately they are able to recall all five words. You can do the same thing with a short list of numbers; or by having them recite the months of the year in reverse order.

Assess Behavior

The most important variable when it comes to determining whether your child should continue to play, be removed from play and/or be seen by a medical provider in the absence of clear symptoms (loss of consciousness, severe headache, slurred speech, etc.) may be how the child is acting compared to before the contact occurred. You know your child. If they’re acting “out of sorts,” err on the side of caution.

Keep in mind that the above should not be relied upon in lieu of proper evaluation by a health care provider, but if you suspect a concussion has occurred, these symptoms / signs and tests are an important first option to help determine the next step you should take. Talk to your doctor for additional information about concussions and how you can help keep your child safe on and off the field.