How to prevent the most common football injuries

With football fever at full throttle right now, there’s no better time to discuss ways you can avoid getting crocked and missing any vital training sessions and matches.

When you’re stretching for the ball, you’re upping your chances of incurring an injury. So here, we’ve outlined the most prevalent injuries that can see you out of action for several games and detailed how you can work to reduce the risk for an all-round safer and better on-pitch performance…

Hamstring injuries

When you’re stretching for the ball or going in for a tackle, you’re heightening your chance of pulling or tearing a major leg muscle that would impact on your ability to play. Your hamstring is found at the back of your thigh and runs from the hip to the knee. If you tear your hamstring, you could be out of action for a while, however, if you simply pull your hamstring, you should be fine to continue.

If you’ve ever had this injury, you’ll know how painful it can be — and how difficult it is to play on when it happens. But did you know that, reportedly, people with existing back issues are more susceptible to strained hamstrings? To avoid this injury, loosen your back with exercises such as lumbar rotation stretches (lying on the floor and rolling your knees from side to side). Basic glute stretches will ease muscles around your hips, while yoga will help you stay flexible, which will lower the risk of hamstring strain. Squats, lunges and hamstring kicks are also great preventative exercises, as they work to strengthen the hamstring muscles. But, one of the best is the Nordic ham curl — here’s how to do it:

  • Kneel on the floor.
  • Hook your feet under something sturdy and heavy that can take your weight or ask a partner to hold your feet to act as an anchor.
  • Breathe deeply, engage your core and slowly lower yourself to the ground, using your hamstrings to keep your body straight. After reaching the ground, push yourself up and repeat.

Groin complaints

If you strain your groin, you’ve basically over-extended your abductor muscles, found in your inner thigh. But how debilitating is this type of injury and how can you reduce your chances of it happening?

A slight strain will often cause some pain, however, serious groin strain injuries can impede on your ability to walk and run, which is a serious flaw for a football player. For prevention, completing a decent warm-up is key to avoiding a strained groin. Make sure you stretch your inner and outer thigh muscles daily and see if you can also get regular sports therapy or massage treatments to keep these muscles flexible. A strong core enhances pelvic stability, which will also reduce the chance of groin strains, so do plenty of planks and crunches as part of your basic workout routine. Resistance bands are also very handy for strengthening your inner thigh muscles and preventing groin strain.

Ruptured anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) damages

When you’re going for the ball and dodging other players, maintaining stability and keeping your balance can seem hard. Your ACL is key to supporting stability in your knee, however, it’s often damaged by the twisting and turning of the leg. If you hurt your ACL, it’ll be painful and you’ll likely see swelling around the area. But before then, you may hear and feel it pop or snap…

Making sure your hamstrings and quads are as strong as they can be will help you protect your ACL. According to HSS, Hospital for Special Surgery, you should do plenty of leg stretches like squats and walking lunges. Having good balance — or proprioception — is vital if you want to avoid injuring your ACL too, so practice standing on one leg (30 seconds on each) regularly to boost your stability. These exercises also help prevent injuries to your menisci, which are cartilages that protect the knee joint.

Sprained ankles

Foot injuries are obviously very common in this sport, but a sprained ankle can be prevented. According to the CSP (Chartered Society of Physiotherapy), approximately 70-85% of these injuries are ‘inversion’ sprains, which means the ankle has been turned inwards — common when tackling and dribbling the ball. To reduce the risk of a sprained ankle, try these exercises three times a week:

  • Ankle circles (both clockwise and anti-clockwise).
  • Shin raises (lifting your toes, rather than your heels, off the ground).
  • Calf raises.

What you can do to boost your football performance

Strains, sprains and injuries happen when our bodies aren’t prepared for intense movement and exercise. According to a scientific study, taking part in a structured warm-up is effective at stopping players from suffering common football injuries and can reportedly even lower these by approximately 33%.

Short cardiovascular bursts of exercise are great for getting your body ready for football. Here’s a top warm-up session to help you prepare your tendons, ligaments and muscles for a good performance:

  • Jog and side-step to boost your core temperature for 5 minutes.
  • Stretch, focusing on your quads, glutes, hamstrings, inner thighs, lower back, calves, Achilles tendon, and hip flexors. You should hold your stretch for ten seconds every time. Do this for 15 minutes.
  • Mimic football movements without a ball including high kicks, squats, jumps, and side-foot passes for 10 minutes.
  • Practice shooting, heading, passing, and dribbling with a football for 10 minutes.

Also, you should take stock of what you consume in order to maximise your abilities on the pitch. Eat plenty of protein and carbohydrates — including eggs, whole-wheat pasta, brown rice, turkey and salmon — to build muscle and deliver energy. Also, lower your alcohol intake — it dehydrates you and leaves your muscles more susceptible to cramping and injury. Supplements like omega 7, vitamin C, magnesium, and calcium can also help strengthen your bones and muscles, as well as potentially boost recovery rates.

Don’t miss any games this summer with these exercise and diet tips to help you prevent the most common football injuries.

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