One of the most dangerous sports an athlete can play is football. Yet while Americans still enjoy playing — and watching — this popular sport, football injuries are an ongoing concern.
Unlike other sports, football is a physically demanding sport that requires player-to-player contact on each and every play. Depending on the position, players are generally sprinting at high speeds to either catch the ball, tackle each other to the ground, or trying to resist being tackled. While exciting and fun, it is high-risk and can cause injuries to almost any part of the body not only during games, but in practice too.
According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission more than 920,000 athletes under the age of 18 were treated in medical clinics for football injuries in 2007. Most of the injuries could have been prevented.
5 of the Most Common Football Injuries:
- Knee Injuries – Since football is a game of quick starts, stops and turns—along with tackling — a lot is expected of a player’s knees. Anterior or Posterior cruciate ligaments (ACL/PCL) are tough bands of tissue that connect the femur or thigh bone with the tibia, and are prone to sprains and ruptures in football. Medial collateral ligament and lateral collateral ligament (MCL/PCL) sprains or tears are often seen amongst linemen. On the inner side of the knee, the MCL connects the thigh bone to the shin bone, while the LCL connects the thigh bone to the fibula on the outer side of the knee. Injury to the menisci is also common. The anterior and posterior menisci are the discs that cushion the outer and inner edges of the knee, and often are torn from playing football.
- Shoulder Injuries – These injuries are also common, especially among offensive and defensive linemen. Due to their jobs on the field, linemen often suffer from injuries to the labrum, which is a ring of firm tissue that helps keep your arm bone in the shoulder socket. Injuries to the Acromioclavicular (AC) joint occur where the collarbone meets the highest point of the shoulder blade.
- Concussions – A concussion is a traumatic brain injury that occurs due to great force to the head. It can be a very serious injury and medical treatment should be sought immediately if anyone is suspected of having a concussion. Symptoms include headache, nausea and light sensitivity. There is great debate currently going on as to whether suffering numerous concussions can lead to neurological deterioration that’s similar to Alzheimer’s called chronic traumatic encephalopathy. Dr. Bennet Omalu, who was portrayed by Will Smith in the 2015 movie,Concussion, discovered the disease. Click here for the Center for Disease Control’s Heads-up Program, with resources for parents regarding concussions.
- Overuse – Back pain, especially lower-back pain is commonly seen in football players. That’s really not surprising if you’ve ever watched a game. In addition, over-training is another issue. Some football players train so much that their bodies don’t have time to adequately recover. Click for tips from the American Physical Therapy Associationon how to avoid overtraining.
- Heat – Sweating is how your body cools itself down. Excessive sweating can occur when players, especially youth, are training for football outdoors during the hot and humid temperatures usually seen in July and August. Excessive sweating can lead to dehydration whereby the body is depleted of salt and water. The first signs of dehydration include muscle cramping, dry mouth and dizziness. To keep prevent dehydration, athletes should drink water throughout the day and before practice. Heat stroke is a severe form of dehydration in which the body’s core temperature reaches 105 degrees Fahrenheit. Fainting may be the first sign and it can cause brain damage. Call 911 immediately if you suspect heat stroke.
How can football injuries be prevented?
- Have a pre-season health and wellness evaluation
- Perform proper warm-up and cool-down routines
- Consistently incorporate strength training and stretching
- Hydrate adequately to maintain health and minimize cramps
- Stay active during summer break to prepare for return to sports in the fall
- Wear properly fitted protective equipment, such as a helmet, pads, and mouthguard
- Tackle with the head up and do not lead with the helmet
- Speak with a sports medicine professional or athletic trainer if you have any concerns about football injuries or football injury prevention strategies