Injuries are an inevitable risk in athletics and football is no exception. Young football players have almost twice as many injuries as athletes in other sports, with more than 500,000 high school and college football injuries treated each year. One of the reasons for this elevated risk is that football is a high-speed, high-impact sport.
Tackling, blocking and other physical interactions between players can result in a number of common orthopedic injuries.
Another reason orthopedic injuries are so frequent in football is because the nature of the game requires players to pivot and change direction, increasing the likelihood of injuries to the joints and other tissues. Sudden bursts of speed can cause muscle damage if the player is not warmed up and in condition. Overuse injuries are also common, especially for quarterbacks.
These factors combine to make football a relatively high-risk sport. The most common musculoskeletal injuries in football include:
ACL injuries – The anterior cruciate ligament in the knee can become damaged or torn when a player is impacted from the front or rear. A torn ACL can often occur as a result of non-contact injuries.
MCL injuries – Injuries to the medial cruciate ligament in the knee is also very common because it occurs when the knee is impacted from the side.
Torn meniscus – When a player rotates their body while a foot stays planted, the knee can twist, causing the meniscus to tear.
Ankle sprains and strains – Ankles are susceptible to soft tissue damage when pivoting, changing direction, or when too much pressure is put on the ankle joint.
Muscle contusions – A strong impact to a large muscle, usually in the thigh, can cause a contusion. This is basically a large, deep bruise that can impair muscle function.
Torn hamstring – Bursts of speed can cause the hamstrings to tear if the player is not conditioned or properly warmed up.
Shoulder tendinitis – Frequent throwing can cause overuse injuries like shoulder tendinitis from repetitive motions.
Shoulder separation or dislocation – A direct blow below the shoulder can cause a separation of the acromioclavicular joint while a dislocation occurs when the head of the humerus detaches from the scapula.
Getting Back into The Game
Treatment for these football injuries can range from basic RICE (rest, ice, compression, elevation) to surgery, with several options in between.
Athletic trainers are a key component to keeping players healthy. Parents should help to maintain optimal performance condition by ensuring their young athlete is well rested, receives the proper nourishment, and maintains good condition all year long.
Still, injuries do happen. Be sure to see a board-certified orthopedic physician at the first signs of an overuse injury -soreness, swelling, tingling or discomfort – or when an accident occurs on the field. A thorough diagnosis and fast treatment will accelerate recovery and return to play for your young athlete.