Football is the ‘beautiful game’, right? Well, it is until you get clobbered! One wayward tackle can leave you missing out and on the sidelines. No one wants that, so we’re here to help. We’ve set out a list of the most commonly-occurring football injuries, and what steps you can take to reduce your chances of getting hurt.
Dealing with Hamstring Tears
Your hamstring runs the back of your thigh from hip to knee. As your legs are crucial parts of a football match, sometimes your hamstring muscles can overstretch, resulting in pain at the back of the leg, as well as potentially bruising and swelling. If you tear your hamstring, you could be out of action for a while, however, if you simply pull your hamstring, you should be fine to continue.
Swelling, bruising, and notable pain can all be red flags for a torn hamstring. Reportedly, people with existing back issues are more susceptible to strained hamstrings, so to avoid this injury, loosen your back with exercises such as lumbar rotation stretches (lying on the floor and rolling your knees from side to side). Basic glute stretches will ease muscles around your hips, while yoga will help you stay flexible, which will lower the risk of hamstring strain. Squats, lunges and hamstring kicks are also great preventative exercises, as they work to strengthen the hamstring muscles.
A top exercise to prevent hamstring injuries is the Nordic ham curl:
- Kneel on the floor.
- Hook your feet under something sturdy and heavy that can take your weight or ask a partner to hold your feet to act as an anchor.
- Breathe deeply, engage your core and slowly lower yourself to the ground, using your hamstrings to keep your body straight.
- After reaching the ground, push yourself up and repeat.
Damage to the ligaments in your foot can cause a painful sprained ankle. According to the CSP (Chartered Society of Physiotherapy), approximately 70-85% of these injuries are ‘inversion’ sprains, which means the ankle has been turned inwards — common when tackling and dribbling the ball.
Done three times a week, the following exercise can help to reduce the risk of injuring your ankles:
- Ankle circles (both clockwise and anti-clockwise).
- Calf raises.
- Shin raises (lifting your toes, rather than your heels, off the ground).
Groin injuries can occur as a result of stretching too far for a tackle or to reach the ball. If you strain your groin, you’ve basically over-extended your abductor muscles, found in your inner thigh. A slight strain will often cause some pain, however, serious groin strain injuries can impede on your ability to walk and run, which is a serious flaw for a football player.
Warming up can protect against groin injuries. Make sure you stretch your inner and outer thigh muscles daily and see if you can also get regular sports therapy or massage treatments to keep these muscles flexible. A strong core enhances pelvic stability, which will also reduce the chance of groin strains, so do plenty of planks and crunches as part of your basic workout routine. Resistance bands are also very handy for strengthening your inner thigh muscles and preventing groin strain.
Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) Damage
Your ACL keeps your knee stable and strong. However, it’s often damaged by the twisting and turning of the leg, which means it’s a common injury for football players. If you hurt your ACL, it’ll be painful and you’ll likely see swelling around the area. But before then, you may hear and feel it pop or snap…
Strengthen your hamstrings and quadriceps, the muscles around your knee, to support your ACL. According to HSS, Hospital for Special Surgery, you should do plenty of leg stretches like squats and walking lunges. Having good balance — or proprioception — is vital if you want to avoid injuring your ACL too, so practice standing on one leg (30 seconds on each) regularly to boost your stability. These exercises also help prevent injuries to your menisci, which are cartilages that protect the knee joint.
Beat Football Injuries: Steps to take before the match
Diving straight into intense activity can heighten your risk of injury. According to a scientific study, taking part in a structured warm-up is effective at stopping players from suffering common football injuries and can reportedly even lower these by approximately 33%.
The best injury prevention is a good warm-up before the match. Here’s a top warm-up session to help you prepare your tendons, ligaments and muscles for a good performance:
5 minutes: jogging and side-stepping to boost your core temperature.
15 minutes: stretching, focusing on your quads, glutes, hamstrings, inner thighs, lower back, calves, Achilles tendon, and hip flexors. You should hold your stretch for ten seconds every time.
10 minutes: mimicking football movements without a ball including high kicks, squats, jumps, and side-foot passes.
10 minutes: practicing shooting, heading, passing, and dribbling as a team with a football.
As a footballer, you need to have a decent diet to ensure your fitness levels are high. Eat plenty of protein and carbohydrates — including eggs, whole-wheat pasta, brown rice, turkey and salmon — to build muscle and deliver energy. Also, lower your alcohol intake — it dehydrates you and leaves your muscles more susceptible to cramping and injury.
Supplements can also be used to further avoid injuries and aid in repair. For example, vitamin D and vitamin D3 can help strengthen your bones and muscles, according to some scientific studies, while omega 3 may protect your tissues from damage and vitamin C could alleviate muscle soreness.
Follow the above guide and you will be effectively guarding yourself again potential injuries and the tedious downtime they cause.