Football season is underway, and for student athletes, it’s also the season for more sports related injuries to occur. The game of football is a wealthy source of potential injury simply because of its nature – running, tackling, being knocked down and jumped upon, tripping, jammed limbs – the list is long. Traumatic injuries, particularly to feet and ankles, occur due to a combination of high speeds and full contact during both games and practice. The athlete is particularly vulnerable to overuse injury affecting the feet and legs when training for and playing running based sports. Another reason for foot injuries is wearing improperly fitted cleats, or the wrong type of cleats for the position played.
Causes of Youth Football Leg and Foot Injuries
The basic nature of the game of football yields potential for a range of injuries. Common reasons why youth players are at risk for injury while playing fall sports include:
• Not training enough, or not practicing and playing properly
• Too much training
• Improperly fitting or non-protective/non-supportive footwear
• Not wearing the right and properly fitted safety equipment
• Rapid growth resulting in reduced coordination
The Difference Between Traumatic and Overuse Injuries:
Traumatic Injuries: Traumatic injuries in football occur frequently, and include strains, fractures, and cuts, usually sustained during tackling or “jucking”. Other traumatic harm that may be incurred includes damage to either the anterior or posterior cruciate ligament (ACL/PCL), and to the menisci (cartilage of the knee). Football is also a sport where a high incidence of ankle sprains are possible due to variations in surfaces conditions and the quick side to side movements required.
Overuse Injuries: Overuse occurs when a player trains beyond the body’s ability to repair and recover. Because they happen over time with repetitive training the types of injuries are usually exhibited as tendonitis and stress fractures, muscle tears and strains. Patellar tendinitis (knee pain) is a common problem that football players develop and can usually be treated by a quadriceps strengthening program. Even though they do not appear as severe as a traumatic injury, often the symptoms are ignored and without treatment the condition can severely worsen, often precluding complete recovery.
How can Football Injuries Be Prevented?
It goes without saying that preventing a football injury is the best recommendation. The right equipment is key to safety and protection, and just as important is knowing the rules of the game. Following these guidelines can help reduce, the potential for injuries to occur. Although it is important to remember that unanticipated accidents do happen.
• Have a pre-season health and wellness evaluation
• Perform proper warm-up and cool-down routines
• Consistently incorporate strength training and stretching
• Hydrate adequately to maintain health and minimize cramps
• Stay in shape during summer break so you don’t have to get back to speed in the fall
• Wear properly fitted protective equipment, including a helmet, shoulder/leg pads, and a warrantied mouthguard
• Never tackle by leading with the helmet
• Speak with an American Foot and Leg doctor or athletic trainer for more information on football injuries
When Injuries Do Happen
Although precautions should always be taken to prevent an injury, it is important to remember that unanticipated accidents do happen. If it appears that an injury has occurred, or consistent pain is being experienced, the player should be removed from the workout, practice or game immediately. The injury/pain should be reported to a coach, a team physical therapist, or parent so that the damage can be evaluated and immediate treatment administered. Contact one of our offices at American Foot and Leg Specialists, with four locations in the South Atlanta Metro area, when any of these conditions exist:
• The pain is severe on a scale of 1 to 10 (7 or above depending on other symptoms);
• The pain feels worse with movement or activity, particularly sharp pains;
• The injured area is swollen with or without discoloration;
• Normal ambulation is not possible, weight cannot be borne on one or both legs, range of motion is limited;
• The pain exists continuously, worsens at intervals, or persists for longer than a week. This could signal an overuse injury that has become acute.
When Is It Time To Get Back In The Game?
No one wants to sit on the sidelines and watch the action. But when a player can re-engage in the sport is dependent on the type and severity of the injury. Full recovery is always the best option. As a podiatry practice that can expertly diagnose and treat sports injuries to the ankle, foot, and lower leg, American Foot and Leg Specialists work with the Atlanta Falcons Therapy Group to extend their own high quality medical care to effective physical therapy. American Foot and Leg Specialists and Atlanta Falcons Physical Therapy Centers can provide patients with a comprehensive team approach to foot and leg care that lasts from diagnosis to full recovery.