Football season is definitely one of our favorite times of year. There are few things more enjoyable than spending a crisp October day watching your high school football team beat their rival school. But along with the fun that comes with high school football season comes the risk of football-related injuries. According to the National High School Sports-Related Injury Surveillance Study, there were more than 500,000 injuries related to high school football in 2014 alone.
So whether you are a high school football player or you are a friend or parent of one, understanding how to best prevent the most common football injuries (mild or severe) will help ensure you (or your athlete) stays healthy all season long.
Concussions are by far the most talked about football injury and for good reason. With headlines of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) and movies like Concussion giving us even more reasons to be wary of the chance of concussions, it’s no surprise that the focus is on better prevention techniques for concussions.
In addition, a somewhat new form of concussive injury has recently gained attention of coaches and administrations: second impact syndrome. Second impact syndrome occurs when a player suffers two concussions close enough together that the first has not had time to heal. Research has found that repeated trauma of this sort is a contributing factor to CTE.
While concussions are the focus of mainstream media, there are many other football-related injuries that get less attention but still need to be dealt with from a prevention technique.
Traumatic injuries are defined as any physical injury of sudden onset and severity which require immediate medical attention. Injuries in this category include bone breaks, muscle/ligament/tendon tears, cuts requiring stitches and more.
The most common traumatic injuries for football players are injuries to the knees (especially the ACL/PCL and cartilage areas), ankle sprains and shoulder injuries. Traumatic injuries range in severity but some of the most severe can affect a player’s ability to compete long-term.
Heat injuries include things like heat exhaustion and heat stroke. The danger for these injuries is highest during late-summer training camps in which intense physical activity combined with excessive heat can result in dehydration. This is most common among younger football players and can increase in severity if not treated immediately.
Overuse of any muscle without proper rest and recovery can cause an overuse injury but the most common for football athletes is lower back pain caused by carrying the extra weight of pads, tackling and hitting the ground repeatedly. At it’s most severe, overusing muscles can lead to overtraining syndrome.
So how can athletes, parents, coaches and other administrators help to ensure that their players are taking the steps to prevent against these common injuries?
Let’s take a look at some of the steps that will help any athlete minimize their risk of injury:
- Complete a pre-season health and wellness exam.
- Perform proper warm-up and cool-down every practice and game.
- Incorporate strength training and stretching into conditioning routines.
- Hydrate adequately (link to 7 Facts You Didn’t Know About Hydration for Athletes when live) – especially in high temperature and humid climates. During practices, monitor for heat exhaustion. Muscle cramps are an early sign of heat exhaustion so once a player is experiencing any cramping, they should step away, cool off and replace fluids until they feel strong enough to return to practice.
- Ensure players remain active in the offseason. Focusing on technique, core strength and flexibility can help prevent back pain and overuse injuries.
- Ensure protective equipment – helmets, pads, mouthguard – are highly-rated in concussion safety tests and fit properly.
- Strengthen muscles and joints most commonly injured including the quadriceps, knees, ankles and shoulders.
With the spotlight on football players and concussions, coaches, administrators, the NFL and even the government are taking note. In fact, all 50 states have already enacted concussion legislation to ensure the safety of all levels of football players. This is a great first step in helping to prevent some of the most severe injuries but there are many other things that players, parents, coaches and friends can do to help.
Spending time each day to recover from practice or a workout will help you prevent many common injuries. Get our checklist to remind you the key steps to take daily to maximize recovery and help reduce your risk of injury.
Hopefully you are healthy, but if you are suffering from an injury but not quite sure what it is? Let our injury specialists help! Check out our FREE Injury Assessment. We’ll tell you what injury we think you have based on your symptoms and give you some insider tips to help recover from your injury faster!