Football has one of the highest incidences of injury of all field sports, and the injuries can often be more severe than in other types of play. Since football is a full contact sport, tackling, blocking, and other physical contact between players can result in more risk not only for concussions, but for overuse injuries and impact injuries.
Injuries can’t always be avoided, but the good news is that you can help reduce risk for your young athlete on the football field, or for yourself if you are a player. Following these guidelines can help you reduce your risk for injury and keep you on the field (and off the bench) all summer long.
Protection goes beyond putting your helmet on – every part of your players uniform is designed to minimize impact and reduce the chance of injury. Even if you are just practicing with friends, suit up properly and wear all of your protective gear, including padding, cup, and mouthguard. Don’t forget to check all equipment for fit throughout the year, as growth can change fit. Proper footwear is a must to help prevent serious injury to ankle and knee joints.
Warm-Up and Cool-Down
Before any physical activity, take the time to warm up and stretch. You can limber your body and loosen your lower joints by doing exercises that target your hips, knees, thighs, and calves, such as butt kicks, high knees, side shuffles, walking lunges, and sprints. Stretch before and after each practice to keep your muscles flexible and to reduce your risk of injury.
Strength training and conditioning reduces the risk of injury by improving functional movement. Your sports coach or team doctor can help you create a sensible workout plan that incorporates resistance, agility, endurance, power, speed, and flexibility training. This can help physically prepare your body for the high demands of playing football and will improve your overall athletic performance.
Staying sufficiently hydrated during practice or a game can stave off heat exhaustion or heat stroke. Intense physical activity in the sun causes excessive sweating, and the depletion of salt and water in your body can lead to painful cramping. Stay hydrated and notifying your coach or medical staff immediately if you experience heat stroke symptoms such as a cessation of sweating, sudden dizziness, or cramping of your muscles can help protect you.
Keep Your Head Up
Keeping your head up when tackling can significantly reduce the risk of head and neck injuries. Always keep your head positioned up to protect yourself from a serious injury and do not lead with your helmet when tackling or blocking. Your head and neck are to be protected at all times. The likelihood of head, neck, and shoulder injury goes up significantly when players begin tackling with the head down.
Take a Break if Injured
Don’t play through the pain. Pain is your body’s way of telling you something is wrong. If you are hurt, continuing to play can worsen a mild injury into one that could bench you for the rest of the season. Better to sit out one play or game than risk your health and your career by exacerbating an injury. If you aren’t sure, get a thorough evaluation by a medical professional who can identify issues that you may have missed.
Following these guidelines can help you have a safe and productive football season. If you have encountered a joint injury, call Strasburger Orthopaedics for a consultation.