It’s that time of year again. The kids are back in school, the air is getting (slightly) cooler, and football teams all over the country are gearing up for their big games. The cheering, the game winning field goals, the athleticism of the players—football is hands-down one of the best parts of fall. While it’s all very thrilling to cheer on your child’s team, there are some inherent risks that come from participating in the South’s favorite sport. How many times have you watched your team’s running back get hurt on the field? Or watch in horror as the quarterback gets sacked and is a little too slow to stand up? Injuries are very common in football, and if your child is a player, it’s important to be mindful of these common injuries. Here are the top football injuries that are most likely to land your child in need to see an orthopaedic specialist, how your child can avoid getting seriously hurt, and what you should do if your kid does sustain an injury during the next big game.
- Shoulder Injuries
Shoulder injuries are quite common in the world of football, especially if your kid is the quarterback. That’s because that arm gets put under stress while throwing, and they do a lot of throwing. The repetitive motion can cause overuse issues such as tears and strains of the rotator cuff, ligament tears, and strained tendons. Throwing additionally causes stress on the shoulder, putting the player at risk for tears of the labrum, which is the circle of cartilage in the shoulder joint that helps stabilize the shoulder. Other shoulder injuries are caused by impact injuries from collisions and falls. These can cause fractures; shoulder separations of the acromioclavicular joint, or AC Joint, which is located between the clavicle and the acromion bone on the tip of the shoulder blade; or dislocations, which occur when the joint pops out of place, typically involving the humerus or upper arm bone and the cup of the shoulder.
- Knee Injuries
Another common injury in football is the dreaded knee injury. All the fast stops, lightning-speed cutting, and explosive starts are some of the main culprits of these types of injuries. Common areas of concern are the menisci. These are a pair of thick, flexible wedges of cartilage in the knee that help to give the knees additional stability. The meniscus may be damaged by twisting motions, resulting in meniscus tears. Torn cartilage in other parts of the knee is also a possibility. ACL/PCL Ligaments are also a high risk for injury and can result in a tell-tale popping sound that’s hard to ignore. The ACL, or the Anterior Cruciate Ligament, runs diagonally on the inside of the knee and is responsible for the forward movement of the leg bones. ACL tears often require surgery depending on their severity. The PCL, or the Posterior Cruciate Ligament, works in tandem with the ACL and is mainly responsible for preventing the leg bones from sliding backward and out of position.
- Foot and Ankle Injuries
Foot and ankle injuries generally happen from landing in an unnatural way due to an uneven playing surface or from a slick surface (like all these autumn rainstorms). This can lead to sudden, overly stretched ligaments in the ankle, also known as ankle sprains. These issues can partially be avoided by wearing adequate footwear like long cleats for slippery or wet surfaces and short cleats or turf cleats.
- Emergent Injuries
Football is a rough sport, and with such a sport comes dangerous injuries. The most common serious injuries are concussions and heat-related injuries. Concussions occur when a player receives a direct blow to the head or an injury that shakes the brain around causing any neurological symptoms. This can leave a player feeling dizzy and disoriented and can even lead to unconsciousness. And while a mild concussion is unlikely to cause long-term issues, a severe concussion or repeated concussions certainly can. Another type of particularly worrisome injury occurs from overheating during long, hot training sessions. Heat exhaustion, if not properly treated, can quickly lead to heat stroke. While heat-related issues are dangerous, they can be avoided with adequate hydration and sufficient rest between drills and limiting practices on hot and humid days.
Many of the injuries mentioned can be prevented with proper coaching, techniques, and equipment. When a coach utilizes common-sense training by teaching proper tackling techniques, players are less likely to get head injuries. When a coach ensures that his team is physically fit enough to play by implementing strength training exercises, proper stretches, and proper warm-ups and cool-downs, a player’s body will be more pliable and less likely to get injured from explosive movements. When a coach demands that players use the proper fitting equipment like helmets, lower leg pads, and shoulder pads, these protocols lead to fewer impact injuries and an overall safer game.
Of course, not all injuries can be 100% avoided when playing such a high-impact sport and injuries do happen—and that’s where an orthopaedic specialist comes in to save the day. If your child even suspects they have a football-related injury, do not delay treatment. Make an appointment with an orthopaedic specialist immediately. If you delay care, the complications that arise from neglect can be serious. Sometimes, an injury is far worse than it seems and only a trained orthopaedic specialist can tell you what is truly wrong. At Southlake Orthopaedics, our specialists are trained to treat common injuries associated with football. You can trust us to provide personalized and compassionate care for your child, utilizing the most advanced medical technology available to get them back on the field and doing what they love best. Contact us today to request an appointment and get your child back in the game!