If baseball is considered an “American Pastime,” then football should be called an “American Obsession.” It’s one of the most popular sports in the country, due in part to the sheer excitement that comes with full contact sports. Because football is so physically demanding though, it should come as no surprise to learn that football injuries lead the pack in a large cross-section of various types of sports injuries.
An estimated 5.2 million people ages 6 and over played tackle football in 2018 according to recent data from the Statista website.
It’s interesting to note that these numbers have been decreasing almost every year since 2006, and some of the decrease might be due to the number of injuries related to the sport.
Even with its associated risks, football remains one of the most popular sports in the United States. Whether it’s professional or college football injuries, high school, middle school or even Pop Warner style play, the game can take a physical toll on the body.
What are the Most Common Football Injuries?
It goes without saying (but we’ll say it anyway), the worst football injuries are associated with helmet-to-helmet contact, which can cause concussions and severe spinal damage.
Though there is certainly a movement to improve the safety of players, this type of contact can have dangerous consequences and usually requires immediate medical attention.
There is also the impact the body takes from tackles and collisions with the ground and other players. In addition, serious muscle strain often occurs from the game’s fast-paced movements and there can be a price to be paid from overuse and training on soft tissue and the joints of players.
Some of the most common football injuries include the following:
From a torn Achilles to tendonitis, Achilles Injuries can be painful and substantially limit a player’s mobility or ability to even play.
Depending on the type and severity of an Achilles injury, it’s not unusual for players to miss practice or playing in games for 4 to 6 months until it completely heals and activity can return to normal.
Ankle Injuries – Sprains and Strains
Because of the playing surfaces and cutting motion many players do regularly, ankle injuries such as sprains and strains are high on the football injury list.
If the injury is a bruise to the bone, it will usually heal quickly and sometimes won’t warrant missing any playing time.
Ankle sprains and strains to tendons and ligaments are usually graded as mild, moderate, or severe, with the worst cases requiring approximately 4 months of recovery time before returning to normal activity.
The knee is comprised of tendons, ligaments, cartilage, and bones and Knee injuries can be caused by twisting or from direct impact, and usually range from a sprain, to a torn meniscus or dislocation.
Some injuries to the knee may even be related to hamstring tendonitis that can cause pain in the back of the knee.
Common knee injuries include:
- Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) injury
- Posterior Cruciate Ligament (PCL) injury
- Medial Collateral Ligament (MCL) injury
- Dislocated kneecap (patella)
- Meniscus tears
The recovery time for knee injuries will depend on the type and severity of the injury. Injuries requiring arthroscopic surgery can take several months to heal, with the most severe injuries sideling a player for up to a year.
Many offensive and defensive lineman complain of shoulder injuries, from dislocation to shoulder tendonitis, because of the constant impact and physical demands of these positions.
The various tendons and muscles can result in a strain caused by stretching or tearing either of them.
There are four joints in the shoulder and any of these can be susceptible to a sprain. Grade 1 sprains usually heal in a few weeks, whereas Grade 3 sprains can take up to 8 weeks for recovery.
Fracturing or breaking a bone on the gridiron is certainly not unheard of and can be quite traumatic.
Bone spurs, which are bony projections that develop along the edges of a bone, are also common among athletes and can cause a decline in a player’s ability to perform at a high level.
Recovery times for bone injuries can vary widely.
Overtraining injuries are common at all levels of football, but usually occur at the highest level of the sport because athletes compete at a higher intensity.
The repetitive motions that athletes make, from throwing to sprinting to movements in weight training, regularly cause inflammation in soft tissue that can be painful and limit mobility and efficiency.
6 Types of Football Injury Treatments
Football is such a dynamic sport that the range of related injuries and effective treatments for recovery will vary from individual to individual.
Here are 6 common approaches to treating football related injuries:
1. EPAT Therapy for Football injuries
Sometimes referred to as Shockwave Treatment, EPAT Therapy Treatment is a painless, non-invasive method for speeding up the healing process.
During an EPAT session, impulse pressure waves are delivered deep into the muscles and tissue. This helps to create blood flow, reduce inflammation, and promote faster healing.
With EPAT Therapy, there is no scarring, risk of infection, or anesthesia required, and athletes playing or training for the football season can many times continue to perform while undergoing treatment sessions.
Minor injuries, some tears, sprains or tendonitis in an effected joint, can be improved by using the RICE Method, which stands for Rest, Ice, Compress, Elevate.
RICE is especially critical in the first 72 hours of an injury. While ice can help reduce inflammation and pain, compression will support the joint and rest gives the injured area time to heal.
Whenever possible, elevate the affected area above the heart.
3. Taping and Strapping
While a condition like hamstring tendonitis or an ankle strain is still healing, taping and strapping can aid in reducing stress on the muscles and tendons by creating extra support and tension.
Many players tape injury prone area before playing to provide additional support and help prevent injuries from happening in the first place.
Taping and strapping can also make it possible for players to continue playing through injuries.
4. Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Medications
Over the counter pain medications like ibuprofen can help lessen injury related pain and will also aid in promoting a decline in inflammation.
Depending on the type of injury, some athletes may need a steroid injection to reduce more serious inflammation and pain.
Serious football injuries, such as broken bones, a ruptured Achilles, a torn rotator cuff, knee injuries, and others might have to be surgically repaired in order for a full recovery to be made.
Hopefully surgery is a last resort for most players because it can end the season due to the long recovery time required after the procedure.
6. Physical Therapy
As an injury heals, undergoing physical therapy can help speed up the healing process by learning specific exercises and stretches to increase strength and improve flexibility.
This is also an opportunity for athletes to develop proper training techniques and warm-up habits, which will help decrease the chance of further injury.
Treating Sports Injuries
Football injuries are very common for those who play the sport, but fortunately, many of the treatment methods outlined here will allow them to heal quickly to return to the playing field.
Most of these treatment protocols have been used for a long time. EPAT Therapy is the newest method on the list and has been gaining momentum in recent years by college and NFL trainers because it speeds the healing process and gets players back to playing with little or no downtime.
There are several different models of STORZ Medical Shock Wave devices to suit the needs sports and rehabilitation professionals and each comes with a variety of accessories.