Football is a great form of exercise and is also a top social activity. It’s engaging and fun for all ages, but, like any sport, you run the risk of being injured when you take part. Even professional players end up on the sidelines due to sprains and strains.
However, there is good news. There are methods and measures you can take to reduce the chance of being injured. We've looked at the most frequently occurring football injuries, and detailed methods you can use to defend against these problems.
Anterior cruciate ligament (ACL): prevent rupture
Your knee is kept stable thanks to your ACL. However, it’s often damaged by the twisting and turning of the leg, which means it’s a common injury for football players. If you hurt your ACL, it’ll be painful and you’ll likely see swelling around the area. But before then, you may hear and feel it pop or snap…
Try to train any muscles around your knee so you can aid your ACL and limit the risk of injury. According to HSS, Hospital for Special Surgery, you should do plenty of leg stretches like squats and walking lunges. Having good balance — or proprioception — is vital if you want to avoid injuring your ACL too, so practice standing on one leg (30 seconds on each) regularly to boost your stability. These exercises also help prevent injuries to your menisci, which are cartilages that protect the knee joint.
Hamstring: pulls and tears
Your hamstring runs from your hip to your knee down the back of your thigh. As your legs are crucial parts of a football match, sometimes your hamstring muscles can overstretch, resulting in pain at the back of the leg, as well as potentially bruising and swelling. If you tear your hamstring, you could be out of action for a while, however, if you simply pull your hamstring, you should be fine to continue.
If you feel you’ve torn your hamstring, you’ll likely see bruising, swelling, and pain. Reportedly, people with existing back issues are more susceptible to strained hamstrings, so to avoid this injury, loosen your back with exercises such as lumbar rotation stretches (lying on the floor and rolling your knees from side to side). Basic glute stretches will ease muscles around your hips, while yoga will help you stay flexible, which will lower the risk of hamstring strain. Squats, lunges and hamstring kicks are also great preventative exercises, as they work to strengthen the hamstring muscles.
A great warm-up exercise for your hamstring is the Nordic ham curl. This is how you do it:
Kneel on the floor.
Hook your feet under something sturdy and heavy that can take your weight or ask a partner to hold your feet to act as an anchor.
Breathe deeply, engage your core and slowly lower yourself to the ground, using your hamstrings to keep your body straight.
After reaching the ground, push yourself up and repeat.
Ankles: sprains and strains
An ankle sprain is damage to the soft tissue of your foot. According to the CSP (Chartered Society of Physiotherapy), approximately 70-85% of these injuries are ‘inversion’ sprains, which means the ankle has been turned inwards — common when tackling and dribbling the ball.
Completing the following exercises three times a week can help protect your ankles from injury:
Ankle circles (both clockwise and anti-clockwise).
Shin raises (lifting your toes, rather than your heels, off the ground).
A groin strain can occur when you stretch too far to get the ball or try to tackle the opposition. If you strain your groin, you’ve basically over-extended your abductor muscles, found in your inner thigh. A slight strain will often cause some pain, however, serious groin strain injuries can impede on your ability to walk and run, which is a serious flaw for a football player.
A thorough warm-up will significantly lower the risk of straining your groin. Make sure you stretch your inner and outer thigh muscles daily and see if you can also get regular sports therapy or massage treatments to keep these muscles flexible. A strong core enhances pelvic stability, which will also reduce the chance of groin strains, so do plenty of planks and crunches as part of your basic workout routine. Resistance bands are also very handy for strengthening your inner thigh muscles and preventing groin strain.
You should always make sure you warm up correctly. According to a scientific study, taking part in a structured warm-up is effective at stopping players from suffering common football injuries and can reportedly even lower these by approximately 33%.
Warm up with your team to best way avoid injury. Here’s a top warm-up session to help you prepare your tendons, ligaments and muscles for a good performance:
5 minutes: jogging and side-stepping to boost your core temperature.
15 minutes: stretching, focusing on your quads, glutes, hamstrings, inner thighs, lower back, calves, Achilles tendon, and hip flexors. You should hold your stretch for ten seconds every time.
10 minutes: mimicking football movements without a ball including high kicks, squats, jumps, and side-foot passes.
Your diet can also play a part in preventing injuries. Eat plenty of protein and carbohydrates — including eggs, whole-wheat pasta, brown rice, turkey and salmon — to build muscle and deliver energy. Also, lower your alcohol intake — it dehydrates you and leaves your muscles more susceptible to cramping and injury.
Supplements are another good way to help your dietary intake. For example, vitamin D and vitamin D3 can help strengthen your bones and muscles, according to some scientific studies, while omega 7 can improve the health of the cardiovascular system. Vitamin C could also alleviate muscle soreness.
By following the above points, you can feel confident that you’re doing as much as you can to limit the risk of injury. Spend more time playing and less time tending to an injury!
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