How to Minimise the Chances of Serious Injury During a Football Season
The rigours of a full football season can take a heavy toll on the body of a regular player. The nature of the game makes certain injuries inescapable at times, but it is possible to minimise the risk of suffering certain types of injury.
Up to 80 percent of significant footballing injuries affect the legs, so priority should be given to calves, thighs and hamstrings. The twisting and turning in football can lead to a wide range of injuries affecting many areas of the body, however.
The most common injuries among footballer include:
- Hamstring strains
- Sprained ankles
- Cartilage tears in the knees
- Anterior cruciate ligament ruptures
Always warm up before matches and training
This might sound obvious, but it is surprising how many amateur players don’t perform the necessary stretches and aerobic warm-ups before taking to the field of play. Warming up usually involves some light jogging and stretching. Stretches should include lunges, heel-to-buttock stretching, air cycling, calf stretches and hamstring stretches. These vital exercises warm and lengthen the muscles - making pulls, stretches and tears far less likely.
Always warm down after matches and training sessions
Warming down ensures that the body’s transition back to a state of rest is a smooth one. Suddenly ceasing exercise can lead to you feeling dizzy and light-headed - the result of allowing your heart rate and blood pressure to drop too quickly. Also, allowing your muscles to cool quickly can lead to an accumulation of blood (and lactic acid) in your lower extremities. Performing a routine similar to the one you use to warm up will ensure your body feels much better the day after a game or training session.
Maintain your fitness the year round
The majority of injuries occur when players are tired, fatigued or cold. While warming up is vitally important, maintaining a constantly high level of fitness throughout the season is equally as important. Throughout the season, it’s important to work on both your endurance and your cardiovascular capacity. And during breaks, make sure you do enough to maintain your basic level of fitness.
Build and maintain your strength and conditioning
There is evidence to suggest that a good level of core-body strength can prevent ACL injuries, tears and stretches. Use resistance bands, kettlebells, suspension trainers, ab wheels and power speed resistors to maintain a good level of core-body strength. You don’t necessarily need to spend hours at a time in the gym, but devoting around 10 percent of your training schedule to strength and resistance training every week should keep your body in the best condition possible.
Make sure you always have the right equipment
Certain items of equipment can help to prevent specific injuries. For example, the right goalkeeper gloves and padded goalkeeper clothing can prevent abrasions and impact injuries if you play in goal. And all players should ensure they wear high quality shin pads at all times. Strapping your ankles before a match might help to prevent sprains - particularly if you’re prone to them. Some players wear protective shorts made from a stretchable fibres in order to prevent groin injuries.
Stay well hydrated at all times
Being dehydrated can make you more susceptible to a range of muscular injuries, so it’s important to remain hydrated throughout the season - and not just before and during a match. In most circumstances, a healthy diet and drinking lots of water will be enough to keep you hydrated. However, if it’s hot, or you’re expending an unusual amount of energy, the carbohydrates, sodium and potassium in commercial energy drinks will help you to replace lost fluids more quickly.
Listen to your body
No one knows your body better than you do. If you feel tightness, soreness or simply that something just doesn’t feel right, cease activity immediately. Don’t be afraid to tell your physio or coaches about little niggles, as losing you for a day or two is obviously more preferable than losing you for several weeks because of a preventable torn or pulled muscle.
If you play football regularly, you WILL get injured from time to time. However, by taking some precautions, remaining in good condition and listening to your body, you’ll be able to minimise the game time you lose because of injury.