The whole nation sits on the edge of their seats, waiting for the very first whistle to blow, starting up the football season across the country. Undeniably, football is the most popular and beloved sport in America, and has over one million participants at the high school level, and millions more at the youth and recreational level. While there are facets of the game that we love, like the long touchdown run or the interception returned for a touchdown, the high level of physical contact also brings parts of the games that nobody wants to see, the injuries. Injuries sustained in football can range from head injuries, broken bones, torn ligaments, overuse injuries, spinal injuries, and internal injuries. Here are a few of the more common injuries that JAG patients have suffered while participating in football.
There is not a single position on the football field that is not susceptible to suffering from a knee injury. Whether a WR is running a route and goes to change directions, or a lineman is battling to get to the QB, the amount of stress placed upon the ligaments and cartilage during football activities is nearly incomparable to any other sport. The more common knee injury that we see is a ligament sprain, which tends to happen during a quick change of direction, or landing awkwardly after jumping. Many younger athletes with underdeveloped leg muscles experience ligament issues until they mature. Due to the physicality of the game of football, more severe knee injuries occur quite often. These types of injuries tend to result in complete tears of ligaments, tendons, and cartilage. A player getting tackled whose leg gets stuck awkwardly underneath him, or a lineman who has a player fall into the side of his leg, would be an example of more severe knee injuries.
Football players wear shoulder pads for a reason, and these big, bulky pads still do not always offer enough protection to protect the player during the course of a game. Many football players tackle by lining up the ball carrier with a shoulder, then tackling with their head to one side or the other of the body, delivering the force of the tackle with one shoulder. These types of hits place an immense amount of strain on the bones, ligaments, tendons, and muscles in the shoulder, and can easily cause a fracture or tear if a tackle does not go as planned. Another cause of shoulder injuries occurs when a player is knocked or driven to the ground on a tackle or block. They are often unable to position the body properly to absorb the fall, and end up landing awkwardly on the shoulder. This type of injury is often seen in offensive players like quarterbacks, running backs, and wide receivers.
While not often noticed on the field, hand injuries are very common in football. Every aspect of the game, from throwing the ball, to catching the ball, to battling a blocker, and tackling a ball carrier, utilize the hands in some form or another. Many times, you’ll notice lineman with tape on their fingers, or large gloves, in order to prevent their fingers from moving in an unnatural direction as they engage the opponent. Skill positions like wide receiver, tight end, and cornerbacks that are regularly making plays on a thrown football run the risk of finger jams and sprains caused by the football hitting their fingers. Another risk that causes hand injuries is during tackles or following tackles when a player is on the ground and can have their hand stepped on or fallen on as the play continues around them.
Image via Fantasy Football Guide
Head injuries have been brought to the forefront of public discussion over the last few years, thanks in part to significant research done by universities and medical professionals across the nation. While new tackling techniques are being taught at younger levels that keep the head safe, the high speed, often violent collisions that occur during a football game make preventing head injuries a daunting task. Any type of blow to the head, whether it be from another player making a tackle, a player hitting the ground, or getting a knee or foot to the head once they are on the ground, can cause the brain to shift within the skull. This movement damages cells and creates chemical changes in the brain, leaving it vulnerable to further injuries if not addressed and given time to recover.
As the nation’s eye continues to closely watch over the game of football, great strides are being made to help protect players at all levels, as well as finding ways to make the game safer. Proper training, a smart weightlifting program, and functional equipment are all ways that today’s football players can help prevent injury and keep themselves on the football field all season long. If you’ve recently suffered from a football related injury, or know someone who has, request an appointment with JAG-ONE Physical Therapy to help get on the path to a speedy recovery.