Common Football Injuries and How to Avoid Them
Australian Rules Football is Australia’s most injury stricken sport – it has the highest level of injury out of any of the national sports played throughout Australia. Football is an extreme game of aerobic and anaerobic fitness that certainly takes its toll on the lower limb. At the elite AFL level almost 75% of injuries sustained are in the lower limb, with injuries to the foot and ankle making up 25% of this group. This also reflects the high rate of injury to the lower limb in the elite junior level of Football with approximately 60% of injuries being experienced in the lower limb.
A foot and ankle injury isn’t like any other injury sustained – I’m sure if you’ve ever experienced a lower limb injury it’s probably been troublesome to manage, after all we do rely on our feet to take approximately 10,000 steps a day. Avoiding these kind of injuries should be at the forefront of any sports persons mind, especially a Footballer.
Ankle sprains, and more specifically inversion ankle sprains are arguably the most frequently seen injury I see in regards to Football. An inversion ankle sprain is the hyperextension of the ‘outwards’ motion when we ‘roll’ our ankle. This hyperextension places a huge amount of strain through our lateral ankle, including ligaments, muscles and bones. I’ve seen many fractures, muscular tears and ligament ruptures caused from ankle sprains that are avoidable.
Improper footwear, ankle laxity and not addressing previous ankle injuries are some of the common factors associated with ankle sprains and thus these factors need addressing.
When choosing our footwear we should be identifying a few key features to ensure were best supporting our lower limb. A firm heel counter is a non negotiable when it comes to Football boots and all footwear. Fixation such as laces, that come high up towards the anterior ankle are a necessity to ensure the boot is firm and snug to the foot. A loose fitting shoe that has laxity in the ankle will only increase the likelihood of an ankle injury that could lead to a tear or fracture.
Achilles/ calf strains. The achilles and calf, is the main structure that we rely on for our propulsion during running, and our power during jumping. Football requires repetitive episodes of these movements so its important we train this structure to be able to withstand this load.
I look at addressing two key factors when aiming to prevent achilles and calf related injuries.
- Addressing biomechanical imbalances.
Overly pronated feet can cause the achilles and rearfoot to ‘roll’ in, and when coupled with explosive exercises like running and jumping, this ‘rolling in’ motion can place unwanted stress on the medial ankle and achilles. Alining the rearfoot and achilles in the ‘neutral’ position allows even distribution and muscle recruitment to allow the achilles to provide the powerful act of that first step of a sprint, or that jump to take the mark. Your Podiatrist will undertake an in depth Biomechanical Assessment to ensure your kinetics and kinematics are giving you the right start to perform your best. If necessary your Podiatrist may use orthotic management to help realign your biomechanical imbalances
Strengthening the structures to allow it to cope with repeated stress.
The Podiatrist’s at Foot Centre Group have extensive knowledge in lower limb rehabilitation, strength programs, and injury prevention. It won’t take long for your podiatrist to work through a strength program with you to ensure you’re in the best position to achieve your goals.
Plantar Fasciitis is extremely common among footballers. The plantar fascia is a connective structure located in the heel and extends towards the base of your toes. Plantar Fasciitis is the inflammation and thickening of this structure, which causes significant pain in the heel, arch and achilles. The Plantar Fascia is an important structure in explosive sports such as Football as it supports the structures that allow the foot and ankle to make movement such as running and jumping.
Feet that are pronated or ‘roll in’ are at an increased likelihood of developing Plantar Fasciitis. This is due to the ‘rolling in’ motion of the feet, when couple with repeated stress (such as running), creating excess force on the attachment of the plantar fascia located in the heel.
The second major cause of Plantar Fasciitis I see frequently, is heavily restricted ankle range of motion, stemming from tight calves/achilles. When the achilles or calf is overloaded and extremely tight, the heel acts as the main structure that supports the weight and load of the body. If the calf isn’t reaching its full range of motion, the plantar fascia becomes overloaded and can become painful plantar fasciitis.
My top tip for avoiding plantar fasciitis – speak to your podiatrist. Treatment could be as simple as a simple stretching and strengthening routine for a few weeks, or potential orthotic management may be required, to help off load the structure. If you have any concerns with Football and the lower limb give us a call on 9553 0044 or book online here. Your Podiatrist will be able to give you the best advice to ensure you keep fit and strong, and keep kicking those goals.
Foot Podiatry that keeps you grounded!
Written by Rhys Pierce – Podiatrist at Foot Centre Group