Football is considered to be a sport with a high risk of injury, as it is a sport in which actions are carried out intermittently at high intensity and contact between players of both teams is, in most cases, unavoidable.
In this post I will try to introduce the different injuries a football player can suffer, the most common ones, as well as how they could be avoided or treated. My goal in the coming weeks will be to talk about each one independently.
What is a football injury?
The incidence of injuries in professional football has been extensively studied, and the authors put it, on average, between 5 and 9 injuries per 1,000 hours of exposure (in other words, practice of the sport); the incidence of injuries during matches is 6 times higher than during training.
Types of injuries
Regarding the type of lesions, there are different classifications according to the criteria we focus on. If we evaluate them according to their duration, we can differentiate between mild (1-7 days off), moderate (7-30 days off) and severe (more than 30 days off) injuries.
On the other hand, if we classify them according to the area or tissue affected, the main injuries we will find will be:
Muscular lesions: these are produced in the muscular tissue by over-exertion or trauma. They are divided, in turn, into:
- Grade 0 muscular injuries: slight destructuring, colloquially known as contracture.
- Grade 1: small breakage of fibers, also known as micro rupture.
- Grade 2: breakage of a higher number of fibres and connective tissue with the appearance of a haematoma.
- Grade 3: significant or complete break in the continuity of the fibres, characterised by functional impotence.
Are muscle injuries the most common on a football field?
Ligament Injuries: these affect the ligaments and are caused by overstretching them, giving rise to the famous sprains. This type of injury will also be divided into degrees, according to their severity:
- Sprain Grade 1: overstretching without destructuring or breaking the tissue.
- Grade 2: partial rupture of the ligament.
- Grade 3 sprain: total rupture or tearing of the ligament
Tendon injuries or tendinopathies: tendons are the structures that join muscles to bones and are responsible for transmitting the movement produced by muscle contractions to our skeleton, so they will assume a great absorption of forces that can lead to tendon overuse injuries.
Bone injuries: these are injuries that affect our bones. We mainly find 2 types of injuries: with contact (due to trauma) and without contact (stress fractures).
Most common injuries in football
Within muscular injuries, the area most affected is the thigh area, which accounts for 36.6% of all muscular injuries in a football team.
Do you know what are the most common injuries in football? Here are the facts.
Secondly, we will find the ligament type injuries, making up about 20% of the injuries. Within this type of injury, the most common are ankle sprains, as well as knee sprains (mainly external and internal lateral ligaments).
What is the worst injury a footballer can suffer?
Although there are no good and bad injuries, there will be some injuries whose prognosis for recovery will be better or worse.
As discussed earlier in this article, long-term injuries will be the worst injuries a footballer can suffer, as they will keep them off the field for a long season.
Among these injuries, we will highlight two for their severity:
- Rupture of the anterior cruciate ligament: located inside the knee joint, this small ligament serves as a link between the femur and the tibia, bringing stability to the joint. Its treatment is usually surgical, replacing the torn ligament with a portion of tendon (generally from the ischio synthesis or the patellar tendon). His recovery will last between 6-9 months, although it is true that the literature tells us that any return to competition before 9 months will involve a high risk of relapse.
Roller or cruciate ligament injury, the most feared injury in football due to time off work.
- Achilles Tendon Rupture: located in the lower section of our posterior chain, this tendon acts as a link between the leg and the foot, absorbing and transmitting force during practically all the movements we make on the pitch. This tendon is generally ruptured as a result of overuse, and its rupture is usually complete in its nature. The necessary treatment is surgical. After the operation, it takes around 4 months to reapply load to the area, although full recovery will take up to 12 months.
How injuries are treated in football
There is no standard treatment for football injuries since, as we have seen, each injury will have very defined characteristics, which will guide the recovery process. However, there are certain practices common to all of them.
One of the most agreed upon in the scientific literature is that early mobilization helps make recovery better.
We usually hear from doctors who do not specialise in sports medicine and who provide absolute rest in the event of a sports injury. However, this is not beneficial for the sportsperson, as it hinders the correct recovery of the tissues.
For example, in the case of a grade 1 muscular injury in the anterior rectus of the quadriceps, absolute rest will allow our muscle to regenerate with a scar of connective tissue (commonly known as fibrosis) that will predispose our muscle to new injuries.
Early mobilisation, adapted to the injury, will help minimise this fibrosis and help the fibres regenerate with the correct orientation, reducing the chances of relapse.
An example would be non-impact aerobic work, such as cycling, mobility work and isometric contractions (without shortening or stretching the fibres).
What work must a footballer do when he is injured?
As the saying goes, “prevention is better than cure”, and while it is true that not all injuries can be prevented, we can reduce the likelihood of injury.
The nature of injuries is multifactorial and therefore, if we dedicate all our efforts to a single factor, such as strength, we will be neglecting other equally important factors.
— Carlos Gallardo (@GallardoC90) November 7, 2019
Among these factors, we will highlight good joint mobility, a technique that is as refined as possible, and what we know as invisible training. In addition, we must control other factors such as stress and alcohol consumption, as they will be our enemies when it comes to reducing that risk of injury.
Tips to avoid injury
The main advice for not getting injured is to know yourself well and take care of yourself 24 hours a day, not just the 2 or 3 hours we spend in the club.
Good nutrition and hydration that helps us to always have energy available during training and provides us with all the necessary nutrients for a correct recovery will be indispensable in order not to injure ourselves.
Daily work, care and professionalism are key for footballers.
Finally, doing good prevention work that includes football-specific strength work, joint mobility and great CORE stability will be key in reducing the risk of injury.
- Ekstrand, J., Hägglund, M., & Waldén, M. (2011). Epidemiology of Muscle Injuries in Professional Football (Soccer). The American Journal of Sports Medicine, 39(6), 1226–1232.
- Ekstrand, J., Hägglund, M., & Waldén, M. (2009). Injury incidence and injury patterns in professional football: the UEFA injury study. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 45(7), 553–558.
- Servicios Médicos del Fútbol Club Barcelona, (2009). Clinical practice guide for muscular injuries. Epidemiology, diagnosis, treatment and prevention. Apunts Sports Medicine, 44(164), 179-203.
- Stubbe, J. H., van Beijsterveldt, A., van der Knaap, S., Stege, J., Verhagen, E. A., van Mechelen, W., & Backx, F. (2015). Injuries in Professional Male Soccer Players in the Netherlands: A Prospective Cohort Study. Journal of Athletic Training, 50(2), 211–216
- Linares García, S. (2014). Epidemiological Study of the most common injuries in U16 And U18 Football schools. AGON. International Journal Of Sport Sciences, 4(1), 46.
- Fuller, C. W., Ekstrand, J., Junge, A., Andersen, T. E., Bahr, R., Dvorak, J., … Meeuwisse, W. H. (2006). Consensus statement on injury definitions and data collection procedures in studies of football (soccer) injuries. Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports, 16(2), 83–92.
- Noya Salces, J., Gómez-Carmona, P. M., Gracia-Marco, L., Moliner-Urdiales, D., & Sillero-Quintana, M. (2014). Epidemiology of injuries in First Division Spanish football. Journal of Sports Sciences, 32(13), 1263–1270.
Be sure to read more about football:
- How important is hydration to a footballer?Read the article.
- Do you know what a football player eats on a daily basis to provide maximum performance? Here we tell you. Take note.
- Strength work that a footballer must do. Does he have to go to the gym?Click and read.