Football Injuries

Football can be a great way for athletes of all ages to build strength, speed and coordination. Due to the contact and high speed nature of the sport, injuries can occur. It is important for athletes, parents, and coaches to work together to make the sport as safe as possible for all those who participate.

Preventing football injuries

Tackling form

Good tackling form is important to lessen the chance of major injury during football participation. Poor tackling techniques such as helmet-to-helmet hits and “spearing” can cause significant injuries such as concussion, neck fractures, or even paralysis. USA Football provides guidance for coaches, parents, and athletes on safety issues pertaining to football as well as discussions on appropriate tackling form. Heads Up Tackling Video

Helmet fitting

Properly fitting helmets and shoulder pads are important for player safety, however, even fitted helmets and safety equipment used during football does not fully prevent injury. To ensure the properly fitted sports equipment, it is important to follow the recommendations of the manufacturer. USA Football provides fitting guides and for the most commonly used brands.

Common Football Injuries and Conditions

Knee Ligament Injury (ACL, PCL, MCL)

The majority of stabilization in the knee comes from the ligaments. The cruciate ligaments are made up of the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and posterior cruciate ligament (PCL), which cross to form an “x” shape inside the knee. The collateral ligaments provide additional stability on the inside of the knee through the medial collateral ligament (MCL) and outside of the knee through the lateral collateral ligament (LCL). The LCL is not addressed in the following information, as it is seldom injured. Ligament injuries can come from sports-related movements such as pivoting, jumping, stopping quickly, or a direct impact to the knee. These injuries can happen to people of many ages and activity levels, and is by no means limited to athletes.

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Meniscus Tear

The meniscus is a "C" shaped cartilage cushion, which is like a wedge within the knee. There are two in each knee which cushion, support, and aid movement. Injury to the meniscus is very common and can occur from wear and tear over time or from a sudden twist, turn, or even slowing down when running.

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Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome

Patellofemoral pain syndrome primarily affects individuals who tend to overuse their knees such as runners, cyclists, skiers and others whose activities involve running and jumping. It encompasses a group of conditions that impact the area surrounding the kneecap. This results in damage, strain or inflammation of the structures, which leads to pain.

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Sprained Ankle

The ankle joint is held in place by ligaments which stabilize it. When these ligaments are stretched beyond what they can bear from a sudden twist, turn or rolling of the ankle, the result is a sprain. Depending on the severity, this could even include the ligament being torn.

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A concussion is a form of mild traumatic brain injury that involves a complex pathophysiological response in the brain. No bleeding or bruising of the brain occurs. A concussion affects the way the brain functions and processes sensory information, emotions, behaviors, balance, memory and learning. This is referred to as a "functional injury" not a "structural injury."

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Stingers/Burner is a common football injury involving the stretch or compression of the nerves that connect to the arm. This can cause sensation changes and weakness which generally resolves quickly. It is important for athletes to be evaluated by an athletic trainer prior to returning to the sport to make sure full strength and sensation have returned. If symptoms continue for longer periods of time, a more complete evaluation is needed.

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Shoulder Separation

A shoulder separation affects the acromioclavicular joint (AC joint), where the collarbone connects with the wingbone above the shoulder. When the normal alignment of this joint is changed, from trauma or most commonly from falling directly on the shoulder, the ligaments become damaged and can no longer fully stabilize the AC joint.

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