Common Football Injuries

By: Brad Homan, D.O.

20130921_ajw_sv7_083.0.jpgFootball season has arrived. From Pop Warner to the NFL, fans and players alike are suited up and ready to go. Of course, football is a rough sport and despite the protective equipment injuries are common. Overtraining or overuse injuries also occur frequently. Taking the proper and necessary precautions can help prevent a player from getting sidelined.

The most common football injuries are sprains and strains. A sprain is a tear of a ligament and a strain is a muscle pull. The most common sprains involve the ankle, knee, and wrist. Most ankle sprains are treated non-surgically with immobilization, ice, elevation and a gradual return to play. Knee and wrist ligament injuries can often be treated in a similar manner. Some ligament tears, such as tears of the anterior cruciate ligament, require surgery to allow for a return to sporting activity. Common muscle strains involve the hamstrings, adductors (groin), and back. Most strains only require a brief period of rest, stretching, anti-inflammatory medications and possibly physical therapy. Severe strains, however, can require a prolonged recovery period.

Because of the physical nature of football, fractures and dislocations can also occur. The most common fractures involve the finger, wrist and leg. Unfortunately, because fractures take longer to heal they require a longer rest period and often require surgery. Dislocations often involve the shoulder and fingers. Shoulder dislocations occur either at the end of the collarbone (acromioclavicular dislocation) or the shoulder joint. Joint dislocations must be reduced and immobilized and may also require surgery.

The most common neurologic injuries are concussion and the burner or stinger. Concussions are caused by head trauma and result in some degree of impaired brain function. Common symptoms are confusion, memory loss and sometimes loss of consciousness. These injuries can be potentially very serious and no return to play should be allowed until cleared by a physician. “Burners” or “stingers” are temporary stretch injuries of nerves in the neck which result in burning pain that radiates down the arm. Athletes may return to play when symptoms resolve.

Other common injuries include overuse-type injuries such as tendinitis and shin splints. Injuries such as this can be avoided by properly warming up and stretching prior to exercise. It is also important to gradually increase your level of exertion so as not to overwhelm your body. Appropriate hydration is important to avoid heat illness and, of course, proper fitting equipment and protective gear is a must. Sometimes an injury can not be avoided, but taking precautions can help ensure a healthy and enjoyable football experience.