With the 20th Fifa world Cup kicking off in Brazil during June, intensity levels are increasing for football players who have been working hard throughout the year. Sporting injuries however, come with the territory of the game. Football has recently become the world’s most popular sport with over 240 million registered players and even more recreational players. There are a few injury types that make up the bulk of injuries in football. Not surprisingly, 50-80% of these injuries concern the legs and feet of the players.
1. Hamstring Strain
An injury to the hamstring muscles or tendons occurs when fibres tear due to the muscles being stretched beyond their limits. A tear in the muscles is referred to as a strain and can be classified depending on severity as a first, a second, or a third degree strain. A hamstring strain usually occurs during running or high velocity movements. To prevent a tear in hamstring muscles gluteal and eccentric hamstring strengthening exercises are recommended along with adequate warm up before activity. A warm up, prior to matches and training is thought to decrease muscle injuries because as body temperature increases, muscles become more extensible and can withstand longer lengths of stretching. A specific and adequate strength and condition program has been shown to reduced this type of injury by 50%.
2. Sprained Ankle
Ankle sprains in football usually follow a typical pattern. The sole of the foot rolls under, damaging the ligaments of the outer ankle. Ankle injuries account for 40-45% of leg injuries. To prevent ankle injuries proprioceptive and balance exercises (both double and single leg) are advised. Local muscle strengthening to the ankle joint also decreases the risk of ankle sprain. When recovering from injury taping and bracing the ankle can help to reduce the risk of ankle sprains. Taping provides support for the ankles and improves stability.
3. Anterior Cruciate Ligament Injury
The anterior Cruciate ligament (ACL) is the main ligament involved in stabilising the knee. It helps prevent the tibia sliding out in front of the femur. Partial tears of the ACL are rare; most ACL injuries are complete or near complete tears. The ACL can be injured in several different ways in football, most notably by landing from a jump onto a bent knee then twisting, or landing on a knee that is over extended. Direct contact on the knee from opponents can also cause damage to the ACL. Research found that player to player contact is the leading cause of injuries in football. Treatment for an ACL tear will vary depending on the patients individual needs. For example, a football player involved in agility sports will most likely require surgery to safely return to sports. Proprioceptive and balance exercises and quadriceps and hamstring strengthening exercises are thought to be very effective in prevention of ACL injuries, as well as during rehabilitation.
4. Knee Cartilage Tear
In the knee, there are areas of cartilage tissue, which act like shock absorbers in the joint –theses are called menisci. There are two menisci within each knee joint that are made from tough fibrocartilage. The classical injury is for a footballer to twist the knee whilst the foot is still on the ground. For example, whilst dribbling round a defender. How serious the injury is depends on how much of the meniscus is torn and the exact site of the tear.
Having strong quadriceps and hamstring muscles that can deal with the strain on the knee may be helpful in preventing knee cartilage tears. Small cartilage tears may settle with physiotherapy treatment, but more significant cartilage tears may require surgery.
Hernia and groin problems are common in sports such as football where the pelvic region undergoes large stresses during kicking, sprinting and turning. The two most common conditions that affect footballers are an inguinal hernia and Gilmore’s groin. After matches and training players with hernias will experience stiffness and pain in the groin are. In the early stages of a hernia, activity can be continued but the problem usually gets progressively worse. To reduce the risk of developing a hernia core strength and core stability are essential. This improved muscular strength and stability can help to counteract the large forces that are applied to the lower abdomen and pelvis.
If you are suffer with any of the above injuries why not contact our Brighton Clinic's team of highly trained physiotherapists for an appointment and get back on the road to recovery.