The Agony of the Feet: A Look At The Most Common Football Injuries
Posted by Jenn F. on Tuesday, August 20th, 2013
When 300 pound bodies are colliding across the field for our amusement, injuries are an inevitable part of the game Despite all the padding these modern-day gladiators wear, injury prevention is largely based on athleticism, player training, and pure chance. Here at the Podiatric Center for Sports Medicine in New York City, we see a lot of athletes come in with football injuries ranging from torn knee ligaments to dislocated shoulders.
Knee Injuries: ACL & MCL Tears
The knee is the most commonly injured body part in football players. The Medial Collateral Ligament (MCL) and Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) are two of the four ligaments that support the knee joint. They are also the most commonly injured during game play. MCL tears are usually due to a tackle, block or illegal hit, whereas ACL tears occur during a quick change of direction. MCL injuries often heal on their own without surgery and can sometimes be prevented with the use of a double-hinged knee brace. ACL injuries usually require surgery and results in the player being out for the whole season. Braces cannot protect players from ACL injuries — but rather, playing on quality turf with long cleats and better flexibility training are the best ways to reduce risk.
Ankle Injuries: Sprains
It’s believed that 25,000 people sprain their ankles on any given day. When the ankle twists inwards, the ligaments become overstretched and torn. The bleeding that results from these tears is what causes the inflammation, bruising and pain. The symptoms are very similar to that of an ankle fracture, so it’s important to assess the condition carefully. One study showed that taping the ankles reduces the risk of sprains by as much as 50%. Rest, ice, compression and elevation are recommended in the days following a sprain. From there, the player can undergo rehabilitation exercises to improve strength, flexibility and stability in the ankle to prevent future injury.
Head Injuries: Concussions
Over 160 NFL players went down with concussions last season. Unfortunately, concussions often go unreported in high school football. Signs of a concussion include: headache, dizziness, loss of balance, drowsiness, nausea, numbness, difficulty concentrating, and blurry vision. A concussion can be fatal if there is a secondary impact while the brain is still swollen. To prevent this type of injury, players should refrain from tackling head-on and wear properly fitted helmets. Amending the rules of game play has proven a very effective measure as well. After the NFL moved up the kickoff by five yards, a study found that there was a 43% drop in concussions during kickoffs in the following season.
Shoulder Injuries: Tears, Dislocations & Sprains
Shoulder injuries are the third most common type of orthopedic injuries in football. Quarterbacks and wide receivers bear the brunt of these injuries, often going down shoulder-first. AC joint sprains involve a separation at the top of the shoulder bump connecting the shoulder blade with the collarbone. This football injury rarely requires surgery and can be prevented by the use of proper-fitting shoulder pads. Dislocated shoulders occur with the labrum cartilage surrounding the socket tears, causing the humeral head pops out of the socket. Sometimes arthroscopic surgery is needed to improve stability. The arm will likely need to be in a sling for six weeks. Prevention involves rotator cuff conditioning. Receivers can wear a harness to support a weak shoulder as well. Shoulder separation occurs at the AC joint where the collarbone meets the shoulder blade. The ligament stretches out and causes pain, but players are usually back to the game within a week or two, treated with ice and a sling.
If you have any foot problems or pain, contact The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine. Dr. Josef J. Geldwert, Dr. Katherine Lai, Dr. Ryan Minara and Dr. Mariola Rivera have helped thousands of people get back on their feet. Unfortunately, we cannot give diagnoses or treatment advice online. Please make an appointment to see us if you live in the NY metropolitan area or seek out a podiatrist in your area.