Most common football injuries
Football, or soccer as it is sometimes referred to, is the most popular sport in the world. This isn’t surprising as it is one of the most accessible sports and there are few people who haven’t kicked a ball at some point in their life. Football provides enjoyable exercise and helps develop coordination, agility, balance, and teamwork.
However, as there is such a great football following, it also leads all other sports in the number of injuries sustained. That said, many injuries suffered in football are not too severe, and having more knowledge of common football injuries is a great way to help you prevent them. Early detection and treatment of football injuries can also keep you on the field long-term.
What causes football injuries?
Most football injuries are caused by trauma, such as a collision with an opponent or landing awkwardly from a jump. Not surprisingly more injuries occur during competitive matches than during training.
Other football injuries may be due to overuse of a muscle, tendon, or bone, and develop over a period of time.
Common football injuries and their treatment
Your ankle is particularly vulnerable in football due to the fast-paced nature of the sport, your need to twist and turn, and that you may encounter poorly-timed tackles.
Ankle sprains occur when the ligaments that surround your joint are damaged or stretched further than they should be. They can be mild (first degree), serious (second degree) or severe (third degree) and have corresponding amounts of pain and swelling.
Treatment depends on the severity of your injury. Ice should be applied to reduce swelling and help to ease pains. Mild injuries usually heal quickly, although your ankle may feel sore when you are standing or moving. More serious injuries may require the use of crutches for a period of time to enable your ankle to heal faster and anti-inflammatory medicines to ease swelling. Physiotherapy may be recommended to strengthen your ankle joint.
Hamstring injuries are very common in football and occur when your hamstring muscles are pulled or torn. They can vary in their severity; first-degree strains only affect a few of your muscle fibres, second-degree strains are more painful and cause more extensive damage to your muscle fibres, and third-degree strains involve severe damage to your muscle fibres and causes extreme pain, muscle burning and inability to walk.
Mild hamstring injuries are treated with rest, ice and anti-inflammatory medication. More serious strains often require rest and recovery for a long time. Physiotherapy may be recommended and can speed up recovery time and strengthen your muscle. A thorough warm up and cool down decreases your risk of a hamstring injury.
Anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury
The ACL is a major ligament in your knee that helps to provide knee stability. ACL injuries, including partial or complete tears, can occur when you: change direction rapidly, twist without moving your feet, slow down abruptly, or miss a landing from a jump. This type of movement may cause your ACL to stretch to the point of tearing.
You will need to see an orthopaedic surgeon if you have an ACL injury so that they can determine the best course of treatment. Physiotherapy or surgery may be required. ACL reconstruction surgery typically involves taking a piece of tendon from your knee tendon or hamstring to replace the damaged ligament.
Knee cartilage tear
A torn knee cartilage is a common injury in football that happens when you take a blow to the outside of your knee or by some combination of bending your knee joint, twisting, pivoting or changing directions.
A minor tear may result in a bit of pain and swelling, and ice and a compression bandage will help reduce the swelling. In severe tears, pieces of the torn meniscus can move into your joint space, and your knee may lock or give way. Physiotherapy or surgery may be advised. Footballers may be out of action for months after tearing their meniscus. Strength training may help prevent this type of injury.
Hernia and groin strains
Hernia and groin strains are common in football as your pelvic region is subject to large stresses during kicking, sprinting and turning.
An inguinal hernia is a protrusion of your abdominal contents through a weakness in the connective tissue of your inguinal canal. A sports hernia will be stiff and sore in the groin region, and the day after a football match getting out of bed or a car will be difficult. In the early stages, you may be able to continue playing sport, but the problem usually gets progressively worse. You should consult a hernia specialist who will discuss with you your treatment options. They may suggest hernia surgery which is performed laparoscopically.
Groin strains are caused by over-extension of your adductor muscles in your inner thigh. With mild groin strains you may feel some pain during movement. More serious cases are much more painful and can inhibit walking and joint movement. Bruising usually appears after a day or two. Ice will help to ease swelling and reduce pain and most people also take anti-inflammatory medicines. Recovery time depends on the seriousness of the strain. Mild groin strains heal quickly but more severe ones can take several weeks and physiotherapy may be recommended to strengthen the affected muscle fibres.
How to help prevent football injuries
There are a number of measures you can employ to help prevent injury whilst on the football pitch. They include:
- Having a pre-season physical examination and following your doctor’s recommendations.
- Receiving football coaching so that you learn the correct techniques.
- Warming up properly before you play football.
- Maintaining a high level of fitness.
- Using the right equipment – for example, wearing well-fitting shin guards and cleats.
- Gradually getting back into football if you’ve been out of it for a while through activities such as agility and strength training.