Football…the highs and the lows

June 22, 2018

With one of the most highly anticipated sporting competitions underway international coaches, players and medical teams will have prepared as much possible following the latest scientific research to ensure players peak fitness and performance for the tournament. However, with the elite level of competition, high training and physical demands on player’s injuries can happen at any time.

Sporting injuries can be caused by things such as impact, twisting, over stretching or over use. Whether elite or beginner we are all susceptible to injuries. In football the most common injuries tend to occur in the lower limb, hamstring and knee and ankle injuries tend to have a high predominance.  Having more knowledge of common football injuries may help prevent certain injuries.

Looking at the 4 of the most common lower limb injuries in football

Hamstring strain/tea

During sprinting activities in football the Hamstring muscles can be forcibly stretched beyond their normal limits and the muscle tissue can be torn. A tear in a muscle is referred to as a strain and, depending on its severity, it is classified as a first, second or third degree strain. The Hamstring muscles work over both the hip and knee joint and can become susceptible to injury due to fatigue, overstretching and overuse.

Tips for prevention

A warm up, prior to matches and training, is thought to decrease muscle injuries because the muscle is more extensible when the tissue temperature has been increased by one or two degrees. A good warm up should last at least 20 minutes – starting gently and finishing at full pace activity. Practising sport specific activities helps tune coordination and prepare mentally for football.

Tips for treatment

The immediate treatment of any muscle injury consists of the RICE protocol – rest, ice and compression and elevation (never apply ice directly to the skin). All injuries should be reviewed by a doctor or chartered physiotherapist. Depending upon the severity of the Hamstring injury, the leg may need to be rested from sporting activity for between a couple of weeks to months.

Sprained ankles

A sprained ankle is one of the most common injuries in football. It refers to soft tissue damage (mainly ligaments) around the ankle, usually caused when the ankle is twisted. As well as damage to the ligaments, the capsule which surrounds the ankle joint can also be damaged. The damage causes bleeding within the tissues, which produces a swollen ankle and ankle pain. This can happen in many other sports as well as during every day life.

Tips for prevention

Taping and bracing the ankle can help to reduce the risk of ankle sprains. Previous research has shown the injury incidence in people with taped/braced ankles is less than without.

Rehabilitation with a chartered physiotherapist significantly improves the level of ankle function, this training is designed to assist the re-education of stability, balance, strength and proprioception around the lower limb and can help to significantly lower the chance of recurrent sprains.

Tips for treatment

In the first few days following an ankle sprain it is important to follow the PRICE protocol: Protection, rest, ice, compression and elevation (never apply ice directly to the skin). If able you can try to gain some mobility back into the ankle by gentle moving the foot up and down, side to side and making circles. You should see a chartered physiotherapist who will help you with regaining functional and sporting abilities.

Knee Cartilage Tear

A torn cartilage can occur fairly frequently in football. The term cartilage tear is slightly misleading, since it is the meniscus within the knee that is actually damaged. There are two menisci within each knee joint that are made from tough fibrocartilage – hence the use of the term cartilage for this injury.

As the knee joint bends the thigh bone usually rolls, spins and glides on the top surface of the shin bone. However, if there is rotation caused by a twist whilst the joint is bearing weight, the menisci can get jammed and nipped in between the two bones. If the force is sufficient, a tear of the meniscus will occur.

Cartilage tears are usually accompanied by pain and knee swelling. If it is a small tear it may simply settle down. However, with larger cartilage tears, the flap of torn cartilage may interfere with joint movement and cause the knee point to lock or give way.

Tips for prevention

There isn’t a great deal that you can do to prevent a Cartilage tear. These injuries occur due to the positioning of the knee in a semi bent position while it is bearing weight. Having strong Quadriceps, gluteals and Hamstring muscles that can deal with the strain on the knee joint may be helpful.

Tips for treatment

Cases of knee pain and knee swelling that are accompanied by locking and giving way should be assessed by a chartered physiotherapist or doctor. Small cartilage tears may settle with physiotherapy treatment, but more significant cartilage tears may require surgery.

Surgical removal of the torn fibrocartilage is known as a meniscectomy. This knee surgery is usually undertaken using a small camera that allows the surgeon to visualise the inside of the knee. The surgeon may trim away any torn cartilage. Following surgery, a period of 4-6 weeks physiotherapy is usually required and can be extremely effective for a quick and full recovery back to function and sport.

Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) injury

The Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) lies deep within the knee joint, connecting the thigh bone with the shin bone. Its function is to prevent excessive forward movement of the shin in relation to the thigh and also to prevent excessive rotation at the knee joint. The ACL can be injured in several different ways during football and other sports, 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.

Tips for prevention

Proprioception training on a single leg or using a wobble board is thought to be very effective in the prevention of knee ligament injuries, as well as during rehabilitation.

Wobble boards are designed to assist the re-education of the proprioceptive system by improving sensory function around the knee. Previous research has also shown that wobble board training improves single leg stance ability and balance, while other studies have suggested that patients who underwent wobble board training experienced significantly fewer knee ligament injuries.

Tips for treatment

Some ACL injuries may require the opinion of an orthopaedic consultant. During the immediate aftermath of an ACL injury the PRICE treatment protocol is most effective. This is an acronym for Protection, Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation. Not all ACL injuries require surgery, physiotherapy can be a great rehabilitation option to reduced pain, build muscle and to improve lower limb proprioception, balance and joint stability.

Please don’t hesitate to call Physiotherapy Matters if you want to book in or speak to one of our experienced chartered physiotherapists today.

We are here to help you progress to the best you can be.

No matter whether your condition was caused by a sport, work accident or otherwise, we welcome the chance to serve you.

Book an Appointment