How to reduce your risk of injury in football
The sport that is adored the world over, it’s no wonder that football’s got professional and amateur players of all ages. It is many people’s go-to pastime and exercise for the week, and it’s a brilliant way to socialise too.
But, as with any exercise or sport, there’s the chance of injury when playing. There’s plenty of things you can do to keep that risk to a bare minimum though. Here, we will take a look at the most common injuries sustained in football, as well as telling you how best to prevent them.
Pulling your hamstring
Probably the most well-known football injury, the hamstring stretches from your hip to your knee, along the back of your thigh. 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.
A damaged hamstring will often manifest sighs such as bruising, pain, and swelling. 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.
Do you know how to avoid a hamstring injury? Try doing the Nordic ham curl:
- 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.
Damage to your anterior cruciate ligament (ACL)
The ACL is a crucial element of support for the knee. 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…
You can reduce the risk of an ACL injury by working on your leg strength. 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.
Straining your groin
During a tackle or reach for the ball, players can sometimes over-stretch and injury their groin as a result. 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 proper warm-up is a vital component of injury prevention. 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.
Damage to soft tissue causes the pain associated with a sprain. 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. If you’re looking to reduce the risk of a sprained ankle, try and do these exercises three times a week:
- Calf raises.
- Ankle circles (both clockwise and anti-clockwise).
- Shin raises (lifting your toes, rather than your heels, off the ground).
Sharp movements cause many of the injuries associated with football. 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%.
Before jumping into a match, be sure to stretch and get the blood pumping to your muscles. 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.
- 10 minutes: practicing shooting, heading, passing, and dribbling as a team with a football.
You can also lower your risk of injury through your food choices. 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.
You can also bolster your nutrients intake with some supplements. For example, vitamin D and vitamin D3 can help strengthen your bones and muscles, according to some scientific studies, and ubiquinol contributes to energy production
If you don’t fancy missing a load of games because of a preventable injury, follow these dietary and warm-up tips and stay at the top of your game!