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.