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The Most Common Injuries In Football

Explore the most common injuries that plague football players, from sprains and strains to the dreaded ACL tear, and learn how to prevent and manage these setbacks on and off the field.

Football is an intense and fast-paced sport, with players running, tackling, and blocking each other to gain an advantage. Unfortunately, physical contact with football leads to a high rate of injuries. Injuries are common occurrences in football, with some more severe than others. 

Injuries can be divided into two categories; acute or chronic. Acute injuries are sudden and traumatic such as fractures, sprains, or contusions that occur during a game or practice session due to direct contact with another player or object. Chronic injuries are long-term conditions that develop from repeatedly performing the same motion or activity over time. They include soft tissue damage such as tendinitis or ligament tears caused by overuse.

The most common type of injury in football is a muscle strain or sprain due to muscles being stretched beyond their normal range of motion. Ligament sprains are also very common due to a large amount of force placed on them during tackling or blocking maneuvers. Concussions are also prevalent due to the nature of the sport and can lead to long-term complications if not treated properly. Finally, fractures can occur when players take hard hits on their bones without proper padding or protection gear.

This article will discuss each injury in detail while examining potential treatments and preventive measures that players can take to reduce their risk of injury while playing football.

Head, Neck & Cervical Spine Injuries

Football is a physically demanding sport, and injuries are almost inevitable. Like a house of cards, football players’ bodies can collapse from the slightest touch or misstep. Head, neck, and cervical spine injuries are among the most common kinds football players suffer.

A professional football player’s neck is his lifeline, quite literally. Neck injuries can range in severity from minor to severe, with any level of damage potentially being life-altering. Upper extremity injuries such as shoulder dislocations and rotator cuff tears may result from contact with another player on the field or during routine training exercises. In some cases, victims of severe neck injuries may be unable to return to the game they love due to the risk of further damage if they were to return to play.

Football-related neck injuries can have long-term effects such as chronic pain, decreased range of motion, and more severe complications like paralysis or death. All football players must understand the risks of playing the game to avoid catastrophic injury and ensure their safety on the field.

Shoulder Injuries

Shoulder injuries are common in football, especially among quarterbacks and other players who need to make frequent throwing motions. In addition to mild sprains, muscle strains, and rotator cuff tears, another common shoulder injury is a hamstring strain. This occurs when the hamstring muscles on the back of the thigh become overstretched or torn. Symptoms of a hamstring strain include pain in the back of the thigh and difficulty lifting or kicking with the affected leg. Treatment typically involves rest, ice, compression, elevation (RICE), and specific exercises to rehabilitate the injured area.

Repetitive strain injuries are risky for football players who perform repetitive movements such as throwing or blocking. Common shoulder overuse injuries include shoulder impingement syndrome and bursitis. Shoulder impingement syndrome occurs when there is inflammation in the space between the humerus bone and acromion—the outer edge of the shoulder blade—causing pain when moving the arm above or behind you. Bursitis results from inflammation of one or more tiny sacs (bursae) that cushion bones and tendons near your joints. The best way to prevent these types of injuries is to engage in proper warm-ups before exercise, use correct form while playing football and take breaks during practice sessions.

Upper Extremity Injuries

Upper extremity injuries in football are typically caused by direct contact or overuse of certain physical activities. Common upper extremity injuries include:

  • Shoulder sprains.
  • Elbow and wrist ligament sprains.
  • A variety of other soft tissue injuries.

Shoulder sprains are commonly caused by contact with another player. Elbow and wrist ligament sprains, on the other hand, can be caused by overuse when participating in throwing motions or tackling drills. Common upper extremity injuries include rotator cuff tears, shoulder separations, and MCL sprains.

These types of injuries can occur from acute trauma or repetitive use, leading to an overuse injury. The best way to prevent upper extremity injuries is to ensure that athletes engage in proper warm-up activities before practice and games, use proper technique when performing physical activities related to the sport, and ensure sufficient rest between practices and games. It is also important for athletes to wear appropriate protective gear during the competition, such as helmets, pads, gloves, and other protective equipment.

Knee Injuries

Despite upper extremity injuries being the most common type of football-related injuries, knee injuries are not far behind. Many physical therapists suggest that athletes should focus on strengthening the muscles around their knees to help prevent knee pain and other more serious issues. The following is a list of five of the most common knee injuries associated with football:

  • Tendon pain: Football players may experience tendon pain due to overuse or improper technique while running, jumping, and changing direction.
  • Groin adductor pain: This type of pain is often caused by excessive strain on the muscles in the groin area from quick changes in direction or contact with other players during a game.
  • Low back pain: Low back pain can be caused by weak abdominal and back muscles, leading to an imbalance in the body and cause discomfort.
  • Knee pain: Knee pain can occur when a ligament or tendon is stretched beyond its limit due to sudden changes in direction or impact with another player during a game.
  • ACL tears: One of the most severe types of knee injury is an ACL tear, which can occur when an athlete suddenly turns or stops abruptly while running.

All these injuries have one thing in common - they all stress the tendons, muscles, and ligaments around the knee joint, which can result in discomfort and impaired performance. To reduce their risk for such injuries, it is important for football players to properly warm up before playing and regularly stretch and strengthen their lower body muscles. Additionally, proper protective equipment such as shin guards should be worn at all times while playing this sport to help reduce their risk for serious injury.

Ankle Sprains & Strains

Ankle sprains and strains are the most common injuries in football. Ankle injuries are one of the most frequent in all sports. Ankle sprains occur when the ligaments that support the ankle joint are stretched or torn beyond their normal range of motion. This can happen when a player lands awkwardly on foot or rolls an ankle after being tackled. The chance of ankle sprains increases with improper training and fatigue.

Minor sprains can often be treated with rest, ice, compression, elevation (RICE), and anti-inflammatories such as ibuprofen or naproxen. Surgery may be recommended to repair torn ligaments if the sprain is more severe. Recovery time varies depending on severity; however, players can usually return to sports with proper treatment and rehabilitation exercises to strengthen the muscles around the ankle joint. Proper training is essential for preventing injury by strengthening muscles and increasing flexibility to reduce joint stress during sports activities.

Overuse Injuries

Overuse injuries are a common issue in football. According to an estimate, overuse injuries account for about half of all football injuries. These injuries can be caused by repetitive stress or overtraining, making them an important factor for coaches and players to consider when training and playing. Knee pain, repetitive strain, and even the absence from training due to injury can all be signs of an overuse injury.

To prevent these injuries, activity modifications are recommended, such as decreasing the intensity or duration of activities and incorporating aerobic activities into training sessions. Additionally, players should pay attention to any signs, such as pain or swelling, that could indicate an injury is developing. Early recognition is key to helping reduce the severity of the injury and prevent it from becoming a more serious problem. Furthermore, adequate rest periods between practices should be considered to avoid fatigue that could lead to an overuse injury.

Coaches and players need to take the necessary precautions to keep these types of injuries at bay while still pushing their limits on the field. Proper warm-up exercises before playing and stretching afterward will help ensure healthy muscles, decreasing the chances of an overuse injury occurring during play. Overall, prevention is key to avoiding these types of injuries so that athletes can stay on top of their game with no setbacks along the way.

Reducing The Risk Of Injury In Football

Football is a high-intensity, contact sport with a variety of risks for injury. To reduce the risk of injury, players must take proper precautions. Here are some tips to help reduce the risks associated with football:

  • Strengthen Your Body: All players should engage in strength training and stretching exercises to increase flexibility and reduce the risk of injury. Strength training can also help youth players to compete against bigger opponents without risking their safety.
  • Wear Proper Gear: Proper equipment is essential for reducing the risk of injury in football. Helmets, shoulder pads, cleats, and mouth guards can provide protection from impacts that would otherwise cause serious injuries. Players should also make sure they have well-fitted gear to avoid slipping or tripping during gameplay.
  • Monitor Player Health: Coaches should monitor the health of their players in order to identify any potential risks of overuse injuries or fatigue that can lead to more serious issues down the road. College football players may need more frequent monitoring due to their heavy workloads and physical demands on their bodies. Professional teams should also employ an athletic trainer who specializes in sports medicine in order to detect any early signs of injury before it becomes worse.
  • Awareness and Prevention: May is National Athletic Training Month, and this is an excellent time for all coaches, parents, and athletes alike to become aware of the risks associated with playing football, as well as how they can prevent injuries from occurring in the first place. By implementing proper safety protocols and taking necessary precautions, everyone involved in football can have a safer experience on the field.

Overall, reducing the risk of injury in football requires everyone involved – coaches, parents, and players – to be aware of potential hazards so that appropriate steps can be taken ahead of time in order to ensure a safe playing experience for all participants. Through proper safety protocols such as wearing protective gear, monitoring player health regularly, strengthening one’s body through exercise, and raising awareness about sports injuries during National Athletic Training Month each year – football teams will be better prepared for game day without sacrificing player safety or performance levels.


Football is a contact sport, and as with any contact sport, injuries are bound to occur. Knowing the most common injuries in football can help players reduce their risk of being injured. Head, neck, and cervical spine injuries can be avoided through proper technique and the use of protective equipment. Shoulder injuries can result from tackles or falling on an outstretched arm, while upper extremity injuries are caused by falls or landing awkwardly on the arm. Knee injuries such as ACL tears can occur when pivoting or changing direction quickly, and ankle sprains and strains are typically caused by sharp turns or awkward landings. Players should also be aware of overuse injuries stemming from repetitive motion.

By understanding the risks associated with playing football and taking steps to reduce the risk of injury, players can have a safe and enjoyable experience. Proper warm-up exercises before a game can help prevent muscle strains, while proper stretching after exercise helps to keep muscles loose and ready for play. Additionally, using proper technique when tackling or blocking is essential for avoiding head and neck injuries. Finally, drinking plenty of fluids during practice or games helps maintain electrolyte balance which aids in preventing overuse injuries.

In conclusion, football carries with it certain risks of injury that should not be taken lightly; however, with knowledge of the most common types of football-related injury along with appropriate precautions taken before and during play, players can lower their risk of being injured while enjoying the game they love. Through allusion to preparation techniques such as warming up correctly and staying hydrated during play, coaches and players alike can ensure that they take adequate measures to protect themselves against potential harm while on the field.

Inertia Physio+ offers Kanata and Stittsville exceptional Physiotherapy, Athletic Therapy and Registered Massage Therapy with private treatment rooms, one on one care, a maximum of two patients per hour and treatment focused on the evidence based practices of manual and exercise therapy.   Don’t suffer any longer.  If you have pain or injury, our Kanata and Stittsville Physiotherapy, Athletic Therapy and Registered Massage Therapy team is here to help you get back to life pain free life and activities.  Please reach out to us at (613) 672-2200 or for an appointment today!  You are also welcome to book online. We also offer direct billing on Physiotherapy and Massage Therapy services whenever your plan allows.

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