Ah, autumn. The brilliant leaves, the cool, crisp air, the cheering, screaming sounds coming from the stadium. Yes, it's football season, and already everyone's counting the days until the Super Bowl. Football is an American tradition, but all that sweat and glory can leave a host of injuries in its wake.
The 10 Top Football Injuries
First Things First
Although helmets and mouthgear have been mandatory in school football for three decades, studies show that only 72 percent of the players always wear them on the field during drills.
There are more guidelines governing this sport than any other because the potential for injury is so great. Tackles, punches, and falls can all lead to sprains, breaks, and concussions. Broken noses are also a common problem. Despite the fact that players are required to wear protective gear, the game can become intense. And sometimes, for example, that headgear that's worn for protection, can be shoved up and cause even more damage! There's a reason why moms of teenage boys get nervous when their sons make the team!
First aid kits should include bandages, adhesive tape, scissors, first aid ointment, pain killers, rubbing alcohol, sterile eye wash, and instant ice packs.
The Achilles' Heel is named for a Greek warrior named Achilles, a man of such strength that he could never be beaten. His only vulnerable spot on his invincible body was the tendon that ran from the back of his ankle to his heel.
Before You Put the Band-Aid On
In football, a stubbed toe is called a “turf toe.” It occurs when a player kicks the football over and over again or when a player's foot is pushed into the ground (sort of like being up on toeshoes without the shoes), and it can cause painful swelling, sprains, and even broken toes. The worst part of “turf toe” is the fact that the player has to be off his feet until it clears up (anywhere from two weeks to a whole season). Running and walking, especially in football shoes, is particularly painful.
- Cervical spine injury. The violent, high-velocity impact that makes fans cheer is the same one that causes back and spinal cord injury. Just ask anyone who's ever had six players jump on top of him and the football.
- Neck injury. Quarterbacks are always craning their necks as they hop from one obstacle to another in the race for the goal, not to mention that fast-moving, fast-driving impact when they are tackled.
- Knee injury. Running, jumping, tackling …all of these moves put a great deal of pressure on the knee, causing it to swell or become dislocated.
- Broken nose. Some veteran football pros say you're not a seasoned player until you've had your nose broken—at least once. Although headgear has helped decrease the incidence of broken noses, six big guys on top of another guy (whose head is in the dirt) can make the protection worthless.
- Head injury. Helmets are mandatory for football players, but, sometimes, in the heat of a tackle, the helmet can be dislodged. And, other times, a hard tackle from the back of the knees brings the player down—fast and hard—on his head. The helmet prevents some injury here, but not all of it.
- Black eye. Football can be a violent game. Witness the incidence of black eyes among players. A thrown football, an accidental tackle that lands a hand or foot above the face guard, even a knock on a helmeted head, can all cause a black eye.
- Tendonitis. The painful inflammation of the Achilles' heel (or tendon), the tendon that runs from the ankle to the heel, is common in football. Which isn't surprising when you think of the running, pounding, and tackling that takes place during the game.
- Sprains and breaks. It's obvious where these come into play—even with shoulder pads, mouthgear, and helmets. Tackles, falls, pushes, and grabs—the basics of football—can all result sprains or breaks.
- Shoulder injury. Reaching for a thrown football, straining to reach the goal with the ball grasped in your hand, stretching your arms while flat on the ground…these are movements that can cause shoulder injury.
- Broken teeth. Even if a player is wearing a protective mouthguard, teeth can be pushed in, broken, and chipped if the face hits the ground with force (or if those six guys once again jump on top of you and the football).
Before You Put the Band-Aid On
For foot and ankle pain, think of RICE: Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation. If you can get off the field, do so! Implementing these four measures will decrease swelling, pain, and inflammation.
Treatment and Cures
Once again, the name of the game is flexibility. Strength-training exercises on gym machines will help vulnerable knees, legs, shoulders, backs, and necks. Warm up jogs around the stadium are mandatory, as are stretching exercises before the game begins.
And even more important: wear your gear. The helmet and the mouthgear won't help if they're in your locker!
Last, but certainly not least, make sure your child's coach goes over proper tackling techniques over and over again. Teammates should know how to tackle safely. Many neck injuries result from a move called “spearing,” in which a player tackles by attacking helmet-first instead of with the body.