With the FIFA Women’s World Cup well underway, it is a perfect time to look into common football injuries and how to prevent and treat them. When thinking about injuries from football, we go to ligament sprains such as Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) and Medial Collateral Ligament (MCL). These are very common ligament injuries in Football. Along with a meniscus tear, they make up the “terrible triad”- the 3 injuries often happen at the same time. These can happen by impact to the inside of the foot/ lower leg, e.g. in a tackle. Other common injuries are ankle sprains (often caused by rolling or ‘going over on’ your ankle), along with Quadricep, Hamstring and Groin strains.

A sprain is damage to the ligament and they are categorised as Grades 1-3. Grade 1 being mild, only a few fibres are damaged. Grade 2 being moderate, generally a few complete tears of collagen fibres but not all. Grade 3 being severe, with extensive fibre damage or complete rupture of the ligament. From a sprain, you may have swelling and/or bruising and difficulty in moving the area of damage. A strain is damage to the muscle or tendon. Generally, these are caused by overloading the muscle (e.g. a sudden movement or trying to lift something too heavy). If a muscle is stretched too far or stretched while contracting, a strain may occur. Similarly to sprains, strains are characterised in grades 1-3. Grade 1 being mild, only a few muscle fibres are damaged. Grade 2, more fibres are damaged (may also be a loss of strength in the affected muscle). Grade 3, extensive fibre damage or complete rupture (significant functional loss of strength). 

Generic ways of preventing both sprains and strains is by ensuring you are doing a good warm-up prior to exercise. This should also include both dynamic (with movement) and static (without movement) stretching. An example of a dynamic stretch would be a walking hamstring scoop. Another way of preventing injury is by building up exercise levels. For example, if someone has been relatively sedentary for a period of time, and then plays in a football match, they are much more likely to cause injury to their body even if they do have a good warm up. This is because their bodies have gradually built up tension over the weeks or months. 

If you have sustained an injury like a sprain or strain, a common question we get asked is how to recover from them. The general rule of thumb is the MICE protocol (used to be the traditional RICE protocol but has recently been updated). “M” stands for Movement. Some initial rest may be necessary, especially if movement causes an increase in pain (generally rest period is between 24-72 hours). Too much rest however can prolong the healing. “I” stands for ice, which acts as a natural painkiller. Ensure you wrap ice in a towel and avoid direct contact with the skin, typically using it for no more than 15 minutes. “C” stands for Compression. To reduce swelling, the affected area can be wrapped with an elastic bandage until the swelling reduces. Lastly, “E” for Elevate. Whenever possible, keep the injured area raised about the level of the heart. 

Once the initial stages of the injury are over, the swelling has subsided and the pain has reduced, it is time to start to get back to moving and strengthening. Strengthening exercises are easy to do and can be done using a resistance band, BOSU balls or just your body alone. See below for some examples of strengthening exercises. 

*Be careful when carrying out exercises you have not been specifically prescribed. If any pain is present, consult with a professional such as our sports massage therapists at Backworks. You should always seek a professional opinion following an injury to ensure you are at the appropriate stage of your rehabilitation to prevent further damage and future functional limitations.

These exercises should be built up slowly with both difficulty and duration/number of reps.

For example, with the BOSU ball, to start with the patient should practice standing on both feet flat on the ball. They can then practice standing on just 1 foot at a time. In time, they can then move on to going onto tip toes on both feet and then just 1.

If you have any further questions regarding common football injuries or would like to book a sports massage treatment please give us a call on 01702 342329.