It’s the Beautiful Game, right? But as many footballers know the pitch can often be a dangerous place. Many pros – just ask Darren Anderton (whatever happened to him!) – miss many months at a time due to strains, sprains and other injuries.
So, how can you minimise footie injuries? Here, Pharma Nord, suppliers of supplements such as Vitamin D and Pycnogenol, outline the most prevalent football injuries, and what you can do to reduce the risk of injury.
ACL – aka Ruptured anterior cruciate ligament
Biology lesson coming up … did you know the knee has four ligaments, and that the ACL is one of them? 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…
There are various ways to reduce the risk of an ACL injury. Strengthen your muscles around your knee, including the hamstrings and quadriceps. 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.
The pulled or torn hamstring
Running all the way from your hip to knee, and at the back of your thigh, you’ll find your hamstring. 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.
A torn hamstring will sting a bit! You’ll notice swelling, bruising and suffer a lot of 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.
Want to avoid a hamstring injury? Practice the Nordic ham curl — here’s how to do it:
- 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.
- 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.
The ankle sprain?
Possibly the most common football injury? A sprained ankle is when you damage the soft tissue in the ligaments in this part 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.
Complete these exercises three times a week to help minimise sprained ankles:
- Shin raises (lifting your toes, rather than your heels, off the ground).
- Ankle circles (both clockwise and anti-clockwise).
- Calf raises.
The groin strain
Over stretching when you’re trying to get the ball is a sure-fire way to strain your groin. 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.
Warming up is key! 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.
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%.
In essence, stretching and short, cardiovascular exercises are perfect for reducing football injuries. This will get blood flowing to your muscles before every match. 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.
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.
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.
A healthy diet is important (whether you’re a footballer, or not). If you do play football though, 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.
There you go then – try including the above exercises and tips, and hopefully acquire more match time.