Football is popular for being a fun, fast and exciting sport. However, the pitch can often be a dangerous place, with professionals missing months at a time due to strains, sprains and other injuries.

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So, how can you help to prevent injuries caused by playing football? Here, with Pharma Nord, suppliers of supplements such as Pycnogenol and Vitamin D, we’ve outlined the most prevalent injuries that could make you miss many games, and what you can do to reduce the risk of injury.

Ruptured anterior cruciate ligament (ACL)

In your knee you have four ligaments that maintain your stability and 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…

If you want to prevent injuring your ACL, focus on strengthening 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.

Pulled or torn hamstring

Found at the back of your thigh, your hamstring runs from the hip to the knee. 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 tear your hamstring, 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.

To help avoid hamstring injuries, you should practice the Nordic ham curl — here’s how to 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.

Sprained ankle

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.

If you’re looking at ways in which you can reduce the risk of a sprained ankle, complete these exercises three times a week:

  • Ankle circles (both clockwise and anti-clockwise).
  • Calf raises.
  • Shin raises (lifting your toes, rather than your heels, off the ground).

Strained groin

If you stretch to reach the ball, you’ll always run the risk of a groin injury. 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 key way to help you avoid a strained groin is by completing a decent warm-up. 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.

How to prepare before a match

When you have to use your muscles all of a sudden, for example if you dodge a tackle, the risk  strains and injuries heightens. 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%.

This means that the best way you can lower the danger of a football injury is by stretching and carrying out short, cardiovascular exercises. 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.

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.

As a footballer, it’s important to eat a healthy diet. 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.

Incorporate the above exercises and tips into your football regime to ensure you don’t miss out on any key practices and crucial games this season.

 

Sources:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3497950/

http://www.csp.org.uk/your-health/sports-advice/physiotherapy-football-injuries

http://www.nsmi.org.uk/articles/football-injuries.html

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3289174/

http://www.coachmag.co.uk/sport/6832/how-to-prevent-and-treat-the-five-most-common-football-injuries

About The Author

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I've worked as an Occupational Therapist for many years dealing with physical and mental health patients, both in hospitals and the community. Living a healthy, well balanced life with a good diet, regular exercise and a taking a positive outlook are crucial to becoming a very well being indeed - sometimes easier said than done!

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