Common Football Injurys & How To Treat Them

Article from our physio team with some help and advice for footballers who have experienced common injuries such as sprains, strains and pulls.

Sprained Ankle

If you are unfortunate enough to suffer a sprained ankle it is advisable to get it assessed and treated as soon as possible. If there is significant pain and you are struggling to walk on the leg, you may require an x-ray, to help rule out any damage to the bone.

Often, the injury occurs to the ligament on the outside of the ankle, known as the ATFL. Initially RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation) treatment is recommended to help reduce the swelling. Physiotherapy treatment may be required to help reduce the swelling further, using ultrasound and soft tissue massage. Taping can be of assistance in controlling the swelling and helping your mobility. We normally help to maintain and restore movement in the joint through exercises and mobilisations. You will follow a set rehabilitation programme designed specifically for you, to help restore your full function, balance, strength and movement, and get you back playing as soon as possible.

Fractured Metatarsal

Metatarsal fractures are the most common traumatic foot injuries. Broken Metatarsals have plagued several high profile footballlers, including David Beckham, Wayne Rooney, Ashley Cole and Steve Gerrard. The recent change in football boots (becoming lighter and more flexible) has often been cited as the potential reason for this increase.

Groin Strain

A Groin Strain is one of the most common injuries in sports, especially football. The term describes a strain of the Adductor muscles that are located on the inside of the thigh. The Adductor muscle group is made up of five muscles:

  • Adductor Brevis
  • Adductor Longus
  • Adductor Magnus
  • Gracilis
  • Pectineus

The injury usually occurs when the muscle is forcibly stretched beyond its limits and the muscle tissue tears. A tear in a muscle is referred to as a strain and, depending on its severity, is classified as a grade one, two or three strain:

  • A grade one strain is damage to a few muscle fibres
  • A grade two strain is damage to a more extensive number of muscle fibres
  • A grade three strain is a complete rupture of the muscle itself

Signs & Symptoms

In the case of a grade one groin strain the signs may not be present until after the activity is over. There may be a sensation of cramp or tightness and a slight feeling of pain when the muscles are stretched or contracted.

A grade two groin strain causes immediate pain which is more severe than the pain of a grade one injury and produces pain on walking. It is confirmed by pain on stretch and contraction of the muscle. A grade two groin strain is usually sore to touch.

A grade three strain is quite rare in the adductor muscles. There is an immediate burning or stabbing pain and the athlete is unable to walk without pain. In the case of grade two and three injuries, a large bruise will appear below the injury site after a few days - this is caused by bleeding within the tissues.

Treatment

The immediate treatment for any muscle injury consists of rest, ice, and compression. Ice Packs can be applied for periods of twenty minutes every couple of hours (never apply ice directly to the skin as it can cause an ice burn). The Ice Packs relieve pain and reduce bleeding in the damaged tissue. This can help to reduce the injury rehab time.

Resting may be the common sense approach, but it is one that is often ignored by competitive athletes. This is unwise, since it does not take much to turn a grade one strain into a grade two, or a grade two strain into a grade three. As a general rule, grade one Groin Strains should be rested from sporting activity for about 3 weeks, and grade two injuries for about 4 to 6 weeks.

In the case of a complete rupture an opinion from an orthopaedic doctor is required. The torn muscle may have to be repaired surgically and the rehabilitation afterwards will take about 3 months.

Prevention

The following measures may have the effect of reducing the chances of sustaining a muscle strain:

Warm up prior to matches and training is thought to decrease muscle stretch injuries because the muscle is more extensible when the tissue temperature has been increased by one or two degrees. Compression shorts are extremely effective at maintaining muscle temperature, even in cold conditions. They provide warmth and support and are extremely effective at preventing muscle injuries.

A good warm up should last at least 20 minutes - starting gently and finishing at full pace activity. Practicing sport specific activities helps tune coordination and prepare mentally for competition.

Recovery after training sessions and matches can be enhanced by performing a cool down. Ideally the cool down session should take place the day after the activity. This is thought to help muscles get rid of waste products. This is also the ideal time to do stretching exercises.

Maintaining good muscle strength and flexibility may help prevent muscle strains. Muscle strength allows a player to carry out match activities in a controlled manner and decreases the uncoordinated movements which can lead to injury. Core strength exercises using a Swiss Ball are ideal. Tight muscles are associated with strains and stretching on a mat should also be practiced to maintain muscle length and prevent injury.

Hamstring Strain

The Hamstrings is another group of commonly injured muscles in football. They are often strained when the muscles are not fully warmed up, and during explosive activity such as sprinting.

The classification of injury is the same as for the groin. Treatment and prevention is also very similar. See the above notes on Groin strains for further information

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