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Preventing Football Injuries


  • Dr. Nick Crawford, Straub Orthopedic Surgeon, Sports Medicine physician teaching student athlete, Anson Acain a stretch to prevent an ACL injury. Dr. Crawford is a member of the American Academy of Orthapaedic Surgeons and is an affiliate of STOP Sports Injuries.
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Football is one of the most popular sports played by young athletes, leading all other sports in the number of injuries sustained. According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, in 2012, approximately 466,492 people were treated for football-related injuries in hospital emergency rooms.

 
Common Football Injuries
 
Injuries occur during football games and practice due to combination of high speeds and full contact.
 
Traumatic Injuries such as knee injuries in football are the most common and can adversely affect a player’s long-term involvement in the sport. Ankle sprains are prevalent due to the type of playing field surface and the cutting motions. Offensive and defensive linemen are particularly susceptible to shoulder injuries.
 
Concussion is a change in mental state due to a traumatic impact. Not all those who suffer a concussion will lose consciousness. Signs of a concussion are headache, dizziness, nausea, loss of balance, drowsiness, numbness/tingling, difficulty concentrating, and blurry vision. The athlete should return to play only when cleared by a health care professional.
 
Overuse injuries occur when a player trains beyond the ability for the body to recover. Listen to your body and decrease training time and intensity if pain or discomfort develops. This will reduce the risk of injury and help avoid “burn-out.”
 
Heat injuries can be common for athletes in Hawai‘i. Since the temperatures and humidity can get relatively high, intense physical activity can result in excessive sweating that depletes the body of salt and water. Early symptoms include painful cramping of major muscle groups. Heat exhaustion and heat stroke can occur if the body cannot cool down or fluids are not replaced — which can even result in death. It is important for football players to stay hydrated and to inform medical staff of symptoms of heat injury.
 
How to Prevent Injuries
 
Maintain fitness. Be sure you are in good physical condition at the start of football season. During the off-season, stick to a balanced fitness program that incorporates aerobic exercise, strength training, and flexibility. If you are out of shape at the start of the season, gradually increase your activity level and slowly build back up to a higher fitness level.
 
•  Pre-season physical. All players should have a pre-season physical to determine their readiness to play and uncover any condition that may limit participation.
 
Warm up and stretch. Always take time to warm up and stretch, especially your hips, knees, thighs and calves. Research studies have shown that cold muscles are more prone to injury. Warm up with jumping jacks, running, or walking in place for 3 to 5 minutes. Then slowly and gently stretch, holding each stretch for 30 seconds.
 
Cool down and stretch. Stretching at the end of practice is too often neglected because of busy schedules. Stretching can help reduce muscle soreness and keep muscles long and flexible. Be sure to stretch after each training practice to reduce your risk for injury.
 
Hydrate. Even mild levels of dehydration can hurt athletic performance. If you have not had enough fluids, your body will not be able to effectively cool itself through sweat and evaporation. A general recommendation is to drink 24 ounces of non-caffeinated fluid 2 hours before exercise. Drinking an additional 8 ounces of water or sports drink right before exercise is also helpful. While you are exercising, break for an 8 oz. cup of water every 20 minutes.
 
•  Ensure proper equipment fitted protective equipment, such as a helmet, pads, athletic supporter, mouth guard, shoes that are allowed in your league. For athletes who wear eyeglasses, it should be of approved construction with non-shattering glass, or, contact lenses can be worn.
 
•  Use proper technique, tackle with the head up and do not lead with the helmet
 
Speak with a sports medicine professional or athletic trainer if you have any concerns about football injuries or football injury prevention strategies
 
Learn to recognize early signs of pain and discomfort in athletes and let them know they should notify their coach, athletic trainer or parent as soon as they experience any pain.
 
Source: stopsportsinjuries.org, orthoinfo.aaos.org
 

Straub bone & Joint Center
contact // 522-4232
web // www.straubhealth.org

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