Common Football Injuries that Players Need to Be Aware Of

Posted on 25th April, 2022

As one of America's favorite pastimes, football is a high contact, energy, and endurance sport that requires athletes to be at the peak of their physical condition.

It would, however, be an understatement to note that the repetitive style and high-impact nature of the game can leave even the most prepared players sidelined with a plethora of injuries.

Whether recreational or played at a professional level, throwing around the old pigskin exposes players to an increased risk of mild to severe harm resulting from strenuous activity and forceful impact.

Over the past years, discussions regarding football-related trauma have been omnipresent, especially regarding concussions and head trauma; however, it's equally important to remember that other parts of the body are vulnerable to injuries that can make a player warm the bench for an extended period.

Foot and Ankle Injuries

Ankle Sprains - The game's dynamic and fast-paced nature makes ankle sprains a common injury, occurring when the ligaments surrounding and connecting the bones of the leg to the foot suffer a tear. They usually result from being tackled but also happen during running, jumping, or falling. Unaddressed sprained ankles require treatment and rehab in order to avoid repeated sprains and long-lasting pain such as arthritis.

Turf Toe - Representing a big toe joint sprain, its namesake comes from this injury's prevalence while playing or training on artificial grass. It occurs when the large toe is extended beyond its normal range of motion; however, it can also happen when a player lands on his foot, causing abnormal bending or persistently pushing from the toes during running or while jumping. Severe cases may require surgery, but more mild instances can be treated with the RICE approach (rest, ice, compression, elevation)

Achilles Tendon Rupture/Tendonitis - The Achilles tendon is the strip of collagen running down the back of the leg and connecting to the heel. As one of the essential tendons that affect mobility, injuries to this part of the body are classified either as tendonitis, when the tendon is strained and painful due to more demanding workouts, additional stress, or overuse, or as fractures, when it's torn due to extension beyond its normal limits. In either case, consulting with a physician is crucial, and in case of a severe tear may require a surgical procedure.

Knee Injuries

ACL Tear - The rupture of the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) is by far the most common knee injury that football players encounter, potentially keeping them off the field for the entire season. The ACL prevents the tibia from moving irregularly far from the femur and can result from strenuous activity or contact. ACL surgery involves reconstructing the ligament from similar tissue, and rehabilitation can last for months.

MCL Sprain - Located on the knee's interior side, the medial collateral ligament (MCL) is composed of two bands that connect the tibia and femur. Unlike the ACL, the MCL's role is to prevent the knee from moving side-to-side. Minor MCL injuries don't usually require surgical intervention and are treated with physical therapy and support aids. Severe injuries, however, require surgery and are typically accompanied by other injuries to the knee.

Meniscus Tear - The meniscus is a piece of cartilage in the shape of a crescent situated between the tibia and femur, both on the outside and the inside part of the joint. Injuries to this part of the knee occur when a significant amount of stress is applied through flexing and twisting. Such injuries can range from minor (discomfort and swelling) to major (locking of the knee, instability). Depending on the symptoms, a meniscus tear may require surgical intervention to "clean out" the knee, and following this procedure, players can return to the field in three to four weeks if their symptoms improve.

Hand and Wrist Injuries

Dislocated Finger - Digit dislocation usually results from a direct blow but can also occur from twisting or landing improperly. When the ligaments surrounding a finger suffer a tear, the bones making up the joint are misaligned. Pain, visible deformation, and the inability to move the affected joint are dead giveaways for a dislocated finger. The bones require repositioning by a medical professional and a period of immobilization to speed up recovery. In some cases, surgery is mandatory to repair the area.

Fractured Finger - Usually resulting from a direct blow, this type of fracture involves the small bones of the finger, whether connected to a joint or not. Pain, swelling, and, at times, visible deformity are usual symptoms, and the recommended treatment consists of bracing the affected digit. Surgical intervention may be required in order to realign the bone properly, and the decision to return should be discussed with a specialist.

Fractured Scaphoid - As one of the most common bones to injure in football, the scaphoid is a tiny bone in the wrist that is usually damaged due to impact from falling or blocking. Pain, swelling, and point sensitivity below the thumb are common symptoms; unfortunately, this is also a slow injury to heal. Depending on the type of fracture incurred, treatment options include placing the wrist in a cast or surgery.

Shoulder Injuries

Dislocated Shoulder - Shoulder dislocations are injuries resulting from the upper arm's bone coming out of the shoulder socket. Depending on the extent of the injury, it can be either a partial or complete dislocation. These injuries commonly occur during overly strenuous arm motions or impacts with another player or the ground. Postponing or ignoring proper rehabilitation can result in repeated dislocations that require surgery to address the issue.

SLAP Tear - The abbreviation stands for "Superior Labral tear from Anterior to Posterior"; this type of injury results from repetitive overhead movements, such as throwing a football. It occurs when the top part of the labrum, where the biceps tendon attaches to the shoulder, tears in the front and back. Depending on the severity of the tear, available treatment options include non-invasive therapies and surgical intervention.

Rotator Cuff Injury - The tendons move in a restricted space within the rotator cuff. When the shoulder is forced beyond its natural limits as a result of excessive or intense activity, these tendons are also subjected to unnatural stretching. This can result in tendonitis or tears that produce severe pain and require surgery to address and fix the injured shoulder.

Recommended Preventive Measures

  • Evaluate health and wellness before the start of the season
  • Warm-up properly and cool down mindfully
  • Maintain hydration to avoid cramps
  • Stay active during breaks
  • Wear protective gear - helmet, pads, and mouthguard
  • Avoid tackling opponents head-on with your helmet
  • Consult with a sports medicine specialist or a trainer
  • Incorporate stretching and strength training into your routine