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American football injuries

American Football Injuries

American Football is an intensive contact sport where serious injuries are not uncommon. However, it is also one of the best protected, due to the amount of body armour and protective headgear the players wear as a mandatory standard.

Most Common American Football Injuries

Here is a list of some of the most common injuries suffered by American football players. Knee injuries are among the most common, especially ACL ruptures and cartilage tears. Due to sudden bursts of speed and changes in direction, similar to other field sports such as soccer, hamstring strains and ankle sprains are also frequent.

Hamstring strains - Symptoms of a hamstring strain include a sudden sharp pain at the back of the thigh usually whilst sprinting or a fast stretching movement or high kick. Hamstring strains are graded 1, 2 or 3 depending on how bad they are.

ACL Injury - Anterior cruciate ligament sprains are common in contact sports and those involving a sudden change of direction. Often an ACL injury will occur in combination with injury to other structures in the knee joint and require immediate first aid.

Knee Ligament Injuries - Knee ligament injuries are relatively common within American Football. There are two most common knee ligament injuries. An MCL sprain is a tear to the medial ligament on the inside of the knee. A lateral ligament sprain is a knee ligament injury involving a tear to the ligament on the outside of the knee and is most likely following a direct blow to the inside of the knee.

Rotator Cuff Strains - Rotator cuff strains are a common injury within American Football. A rotator cuff strain is a tear to any of the four rotator cuff muscles in the shoulder. These muscles are important for stabilizing the shoulder joint. Symptoms of a torn rotator cuff will usually consist of sudden pain in the shoulder sometimes accompanied by a tearing feeling. This can be severe and may transmit down into the arm.

Ankle Sprain - One of the most common injuries in sport. Symptoms may vary from being very mild to very severe. With a mild sprain the athlete will likely be able to continue with training or competition. A very sever injury could result in hospital treatment and take longer to heal than a broken ankle. Read more on ankle sprain diagnosis and treatment here.

Achilles Tendonitis - Achilles Tendonitis is an overuse injury causing pain, inflammation and potential degeneration of the achilles tendon at the back of the ankle. Symptoms can be either acute or chronic. Acute tendonitis is usually more painful and of recent onset. Chronic injuries will have come on gradually and over weeks or may follow an acute injury. Chronic injuries do not necessarily prevent, however they can aggravate the sufferer, causing discomfort and affecting performance.

Jumper's Knee - Jumpers knee or patellar tendonitis is pain in the tendon which attaches the kneecap or patella to the top of the shin bone or tibia. It is usually an overuse injury caused by repetitive strain.

Shin Splints - Shin splints is the common term used to refer to symptomatic pain of the front of the lower leg. Medically know as tibial stress syndrome, shin splints are aggravating to the sufferer and impede upon athletic ability. However the correct treatment and rehabilitation ensures a full recovery.

Metatarsal Stress Fractures - A metatarsal stress fracture is a fine fracture in one of the long metatarsal bones in the foot. Symptoms include pain in the foot which occurs gradually.

Immediate first aid for acute injuries

The PRICE principles are the gold standard set for treating acute sports injuries.  The acronym stands stands for Protection, Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation and should be applied as early as possible and continued for at least the first 24-72 hours.

What is the PRICE principle?

The P.R.I.C.E. principle involves all the components that are required to prevent further injury and start the healing process of the damaged tissue. If applied early enough and correctly it can significantly reduce the recovery time of the athlete. Reminder: The letters P.R.I.C.E. are abbreviations for:

  • P - Protection
  • R - Rest
  • I - Ice
  • C - Compression
  • E - Elevation

Should I seek professional treatment?

Injuries that include trauma to the head should always receive urgent medical care as these injuries are medical emergencies. Even if the injured player appears to have recovered, the internal trauma of a head injury is potentially fatal, so medical checks and monitoring are essential.

It is vital that those who have experienced any kind of significant impact or trauma to the head, neck, or back seek medical assistance.

If you have any of the following symptoms you should seek further medical assistance.

  • Trauma or impact injury to the head, neck or spine
  • Any symptoms of concussion
  • Severe pain, especially on walking
  • Severe swelling (oedema)
  • Altered sensation in the legs or feet – such as a feeling of “pins and needles” (paresthesia) or a “loss of feeling” (anaesthesia).
  • Unable to complete normal daily activities after the initial 72 hours.

For non medical emergencies, further medical assistance for injuries can be sought through either your local GP or a private clinician such as a physiotherapist, sports therapist, osteopath or chiropractor. If you have followed the P.R.I.C.E. principles (see below) and are still unable to walk after 72 hours or still have severe pain that is not subsiding after the first 72 hours you should visit your local A&E department for further assessment.

Secondly, if you have applied for P.R.I.C.E. principles and still have weakness that lasts a long time (more than 2 weeks) or have ongoing discomfort in your foot or heel, you are highly recommended to seek advice from a specialist expert - such as a podiatrist or physiotherapist, osteopath, or chiropractor - who can provide you with advice and an appropriate and effective recovery and rehabilitation program.

Preventing Football injuries

Here we cover in more detail the most common soccer injuries and prevention strategies from warming up to wearing the right boots! We also look at supports and braces for soccer and how to maintain your fitness when you are injured.


Knee Braces for Football

Football players are commonly struck down by knee injuries, resulting most frequently from tackles and sudden changes of direction. Injuries such as torn ligaments and cartilage tears are regularly seen. It is important to ensure your knee support or brace is effective, comfortable to wear and more importantly legal.

Read more on knee supports for football