Time for a kick around
Preventing football injuries altogether isn’t quite possible. After all, it is a contact sport, and accidents do happen.
But as the excitement builds in the lead up to this year’s FIFA World Cup, there are certain precautions you can take to avoid A&E.
Many people start to play again on a whim, inspired by the silky skills on display but forget that their bodies might not be as robust as they were in previous years.
So what practical measures can you incorporate to help reduce the risk of injury?
Preventing Football Injuries – Understanding the causes
Injuries are invariably put into two main categories, either ‘acute’ or ”chronic’. Acute injuries happen as a result of a one-off incident or trauma. Whereas chronic injuries tend to develop as a result of overuse over time.
Impact injuries such as concussion or stress fractures caused by collision are a hazard of the game.
Other common injuries such as ACL tears, pulled-hamstrings or strained calf-muscles are easier to avoid.
And whether it is a kick around on the local common or a semi-serious 5 a-side match in a local league, the biggest single danger is lack of preparation.
The basics of avoiding football injuries
As with most sports, you need to make sure you have the right equipment. Avoid the temptation to whip out an old pair of boots that haven’t been worn for a few years.
Your footwear needs to be appropriate for the surface you are playing on. Pimpled boots will stop you from losing your footing on grass. The boots should be a good fit too, you don’t want the foot to move around inside the shoe.
We are lucky now. The technology used to design boots is very advanced. If you haven’t invested in a new pair for a while, get some professional advice on what will suit you best.
Another overlooked aspect of preventing injury is staying hydrated. Even losing just 1% of your body’s water content to sweat when you work out can put you at risk of injury. Dehydration can lead to cramps, wear on the cartilage and friction in the joints. So before you rush out for the game, make sure you have plenty of water on you.
As the vast majority of us now have office-bound jobs, issues of muscle imbalance become a greater issue. For example, a seated position can lead to a shortened and weakened hamstring that can put you at greater risk of knee injuries.
It is worth getting checked over by a physiotherapist for expert advice on how to redress any existing muscle imbalances. They will often recommend stretches and strengthening exercises you can practice at home.
And, of course, although it may seem like the oldest advice in the book, it is important to take the time to warm up.
They key to a good warm-up is to gradually increase the intensity of the exercise. A light kick around before intense stop-start sprints is worth its weight in gold.
And the warm-up should also involve the mobilisation of your joints.
Done properly, the warm-up will give you numerous benefits. It will increase blood flow to the muscles and stimulate the nervous system.
Put all these aspects in place, and you have a far greater chance of staying injury free.