First of all, it is worth mentioning that common football injuries cannot be prevented and occur in all aspects of life. Seeking out the guidance from a Physiotherapist can help with reducing the risk, frequency and recurrence of injuries.
The majority of these injuries occur following a traumatic blow or event, such as a tackle or awkward landing. Alternatively, other injuries may develop over time due to repetitive kicking or twisting.
Most Common Football Injuries
An ankle sprain refers to a partial or full tear in one or more of our ligaments in the ankle. This primarily occurs when the ankle is inverted inwards – or more commonly known as ‘rolling the ankle’ – which causes a forceful stretch of the ligaments beyond their limits. Less commonly, a similar injury may occur when the foot is everted outwards. This often results in swelling of the ankle, along with bruising and pain. A severe sprain and an ankle fracture can share very similar symptoms in the beginning, so we would always advise getting an x-ray first before seeing your Physiotherapist.
Ankle sprains may be prevented with taping to provide additional support. General exercise programmes for the muscles of the lower limbs may be helpful to reduce the risk and increase stability of the ankle joint. This may also be in the form of balance exercises and proprioception training – the perception of positions and movements of the body. Try standing on a wobble/balance board and maintain balance for 30-60s.
Although less common than ankle injuries, the incidence of knee injuries in football is still very high. Most commonly injured are the ligaments of the knee following twisting and stretching forces which occur from a tackle from the side or landing on a straightened leg. This may occur with or without injury to the meniscus which is a cartilaginous structure which helps to absorb shock in the knee joint.
Effective warm-up programmes that involve hopping/jumping, changes of direction, balance and side cutting have been shown to have a positive effect on preventing knee injuries. Combining strengthen of the lower limb, core stability and lots of jumping/plyometric training in the gym is a good idea to include outside training and match days. Plyometric training may consist of things like box jumps, broad jumps and single leg hops.
Most hamstring muscle injuries in football occur due to overload to the muscle and stretching beyond its capacity. This occurs most commonly when the knee is extended and the hamstring muscle is loaded (for example during sprinting). This causes the muscle to lengthen as it is contracting and can cause a partial or full tear.
The Nordic Eccentric Exercise has been shown to reduce the rate of hamstring injuries. This can be completed with a partner or with equipment used to keep your feet in place. Click here to view some simple exercises to help.
The groin refers to the muscles inside of the upper leg which bring the leg back to the midline. An injury to these muscles may commonly occur whilst changing direction and become injured, similarly to hamstring injuries, due to a lengthening contraction of the groin muscles. In addition, groin pain may arise over a period of time due to repetitive kicking and twisting which may affect the tendons of the muscle.
Recent evidence has highlighted the Copenhagen Adduction Exercise in the prevention of groin injuries. Similar to the Nordic Eccentric Exercise, this may be completed with a partner or using equipment, such as a bench or table. Click here to view some simple exercises to help.
If you are struggling with any of these injuries or unsure what your issue may be, you can reach out to our team of experts for their advice using our FREE service here.