by Sangi Patel

Football is the most popular sport in the world with players of all ages and physical capabilities. In this edition I will be briefly describing the various injures and challenges professional footballers face.

INJURIES

We’ve all been there, felt a niggle, run it off and hoped for the best. More often than not you will end up coming to see a Physio. The professionals however cannot afford to risk this so have to get treatment immediately in order to give themselves the best chance of recovery.

Classification of injuries are as follows regardless of if it is a ligament or muscle:

  • Grade 1 – Mild
  • Grade 2 – Moderate
  • Grade 3 – Serious

Below are a handful of the most common footballing injuries and approximate time frames for back to play:

Muscles

  • Hamstring strain – the ever-present hamstring. When you feel that ‘pull’ or ‘ping’ your heart sinks, as you know you have to stop. You won’t want to straighten your knee as you walk. Usually this is injured whilst slowing down from a sprint or over stretching for a ball.
  • Calf strain – that moment you think someone has hit a tennis ball into the back of your calf. The popping sensation is extremely painful and you won’t want to put your heel on the floor when walking.
    • Mild – 10-14 days
    • Moderate – 2-6 weeks

Ligament

  • Ankle sprain – when your foot gets caught on the ball and you twist it or you go to turn direction and your ankle refuses to go with you. This is typically followed by profuse swelling and in high level strains – bruising into the foot.
    • Mild – 1-2 weeks
    • Moderate – 4-6 weeks
    • Serious – 8-12 weeks
  • ACL – the dreaded cruciate ligament. The one-injury footballers dread. The most common way is usually a sudden twist, more often than not the player is unmarked and the injury happens with the most innocuous movement.
    • Surgery – 6-9 months

Cartilage

  • Meniscus – a common twisting or degenerative injury. We have 2 of these crescent shaped pieces. Ironically our knees do not like us kneeling on them or deep squatting. It puts huge pressure on the knee joint, which will irritate and often injure the meniscus.
    • Typically results in surgery – 3 months

Tendon

  • Achilles – troublesome but treatable and not to be ignored. This can come on for several reasons. One as simple as the back of the football boot coming up too high on the back of the Achilles causing friction therefore inflammation of the tendon.
    • No average timeframe – very specific to the individual.

IMMEDIATE TREATMENT

  1. The most important thing to do as soon as you suffer and injury is to STOP. Listen to your body. The adrenaline will make you want to carry on but in the long run you will thank yourself if you do stop.
  2. ICE – you need to limit the amount of bleeding for at least 48 hours.
  3. Compression – bandage or tubigrip, this is needed to facilitate with stopping the volume of swelling.
  4. If it is muscular in nature DO NOT stretch this for at least 48 hours.
  5. Even more important – Go and get this injury assessed and diagnosed so that you rehabilitate this correctly and reduce your chances of reinjuring this in addition to safely returning to football.

WHAT DOES PHYSIO DO?

As a Sport physiotherapist I would assess the injury and clinically diagnose the severity of the injury. Following this would be treatment to facilitate safe movement and to reduce the swelling as much as possible. Swelling will remain unless it is treated. The more swelling, the slower the receptors and activation in your muscles, ligaments and tendons.

I would then proceed to give you very time and pain specific exercises to enhance the recovery, this is then closely followed by strengthening and bespoke rehabilitation depending upon the injury is.

CONCLUSION

Injury is unfortunately not 100% avoidable; you can do lots of preventative work and strengthening however the take home message is

“If you’ve injured yourself, stop immediately, ice and rest for 48 hours then seek physiotherapy input as soon as possible after this.”