With the World Cup in full swing, summer 2018 is the ideal time for a kickabout or to get plenty of pre-season practice in. But have you thought about how to prevent suffering an injury, if it occurs?
Here, we’ve detailed the most common injuries in football and offered advice on how you can lower the risk for an all-round safer and better on-pitch performance…
We’ve all heard about players who are out of the next game or two because of a hamstring injury. 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 already have back problems, you need to take even more care when it comes to your hamstrings. One of the best exercises for hamstring strength is the Nordic ham curl. To do this activity, just kneel on the floor and hook your feet under something sturdy and heavy that can take your weight. Inhale 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.
Make sure you keep your back loose 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.
Anterior cruciate ligaments (ACL)
It’s easy to lose your balance in football, but this can be seriously damaging to your knee. Your ACL is key to supporting 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…
The key to preventing ACL injuries is strengthening the larger muscles around it. 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.
Tearing or damaging your groin muscles is extremely painful and can see you out of a match for a while. If you strain your groin, you’ve basically over-extended your abductor muscles, found in your inner thigh.
Simply getting up and walking around can be agonising with a groin injury — so imagine how debilitating it can be if you want to play a game of football. 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.
Obviously, your feet are pretty important in football, which means taking care of them and ensuring they aren’t injured is particularly tough. 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).
- Calf raises.
- Shin raises (lifting your toes, rather than your heels, off the ground).
Get ready for every game
Stretching, sprinting and lunging for the ball are three top ways to get an injury, so you need to try and prepare your body for action every time. 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%.
Of course, there’s also your diet to consider — are you taking the right nutrients and preparing the best meals? 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 vitamin C, calcium, pycnogenol, and magnesium can also help strengthen your muscles, as well as potentially boost recovery rates.
Try this warm-up to help prepare your ligaments and muscles for footie:
- Stretch, focusing on your quads, glutes, hamstrings, inner thighs, lower back, calves, Achilles tendon, and hip flexors. Hold for 10 seconds and do this for 15 minutes.
- Jog and side-step to boost your core temperature for 5 minutes.
- Practice shooting, heading, passing, and dribbling with a football for 10 minutes.
- Mimic football movements without a ball — do high kicks, squats, jumps, and side-foot passes for 10 minutes.
Want to prevent your body from incurring an injury this summer? Bear these top tips in mind before you head out on the pitch.