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Common Football/Soccer Injuries and How to Prevent Them

Another world cup is here! With soccer season in full swing, it’s important to take care of yourself. Whether you are a pro athlete, a weekend warrior or anything in between, if you play soccer, you need to take care of your body.

Injuries to the lower extremities are the most common in soccer players. These injuries are generally defined as either cumulative (overuse) or acute (traumatic) injuries.

Overuse injuries occur over time due to stress on the muscles, joints and soft tissues without proper time for healing. They begin as a small, nagging ache or pain, and can grow into a debilitating injury if they aren’t treated early.

Acute or traumatic injuries occur due to a sudden force, or impact, and can be quite dramatic.

Common Football Injuries

Ankle Sprains: The most common of all ankle injuries, an ankle sprain occurs when there is a stretching and tearing of ligaments surrounding the ankle joint.

Achilles Tendonitis: Achilles tendonitis is a chronic injury that occurs primarily from overuse and it felt as pain in the back of the ankle. If this is ignored it may increase your risk of Achilles tendon rupture.

Groin Pull: A groin (adductor) pull or strain occurs when the muscles of the inner thigh are stretched beyond their limits.

Hamstring Pull, Tear, or Strain: Hamstring injuries are common among runners and can range from minor strains to total rupture of the muscle at the back of the thigh.

Knee Injuries:

  • Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) and posterior cruciate ligament (PCL) injuries
  • Medial Collateral Ligament (MCL) and lateral collateral ligament (LCL) injuries

Ligament injuries to the knee are very common in sports that require stopping and starting or quickly changing directions.

Cruciate ligament injuries don’t always cause pain, but typically cause a loud “pop.” Most of these injuries are confirmed with an MRI. Arthroscopic surgery is sometimes the best way to find a partial tear.

Torn Knee Cartilage (Meniscus Injuries): Torn knee cartilage is usually a torn meniscus.

These small, “C” shaped pieces of cartilage act as cushions between the thigh bone (femur) and the tibia (shin bone). Meniscus tears are often the result of twisting, pivoting, decelerating, or a sudden impact. It can be identified by various manual tests a physician can perform to detect torn cartilage.

 

How to Prevent Injuries

As mentioned above, some injuries are from bad management and some are from bad luck. For the purposes of this article we will focus on the things you can do to prevent overuse injuries.

Maintain fitness.

Be sure you are in good physical condition at the start of soccer season. During the off-season, stick to a balanced fitness program that incorporates aerobic exercise, strength training, and flexibility. If you are out of shape at the start of the season, gradually increase your activity level and slowly build back up to a higher fitness level.

 

Warm up

Always take time to warm up and stretch, especially your hips, knees, thighs and calves. Research studies have shown that cold muscles are more prone to injury. Warm up with jumping jacks, stationary cycling or running or walking in place for 3 to 5 minutes. Then slowly and gently stretch, holding each stretch for 30 seconds.

Check out the FIFA 11+ which has shown to prevent injuries in soccer.

Here is Part 1 of 11

Here is Part 2 of 11

 

Cool down

Stretching at the end of practice is too often neglected because of busy schedules. Stretching can help reduce muscle soreness and keep muscles long and flexible. Be sure to stretch after each training practice to reduce your risk for injury.

Hydrate

Even mild levels of dehydration can hinder athletic performance. If you have not had enough fluids, your body will not be able to effectively cool itself through sweat and evaporation.

Sports Massage

It’s the best way to aid recovery in your exercise program. Helps improve circulation, improve range of motion, shorten recovery time, prevent and even heal injuries.

 

Benefits from Sports Massage

The sports massage actually came from the Swedish massage technique. Geared specifically to the athlete, this massage focuses on muscles that have seen a large degree of stress and use, often to the point of overuse. Normally, these are muscles that have seen repetitive and aggressive movement as a part of the overall sport or competition.

The sports massage is recognized by many in the training industry as an accepted component to an overall regimen of training and competition. This means the athlete can enhance pre-competition and reduce the required recovery period, which means a better and more intensive training session after competition. Flexibility, a necessary component of any athletic completion, is also a part.

Many do not realize it, but the sports massage has certain characteristics that make it ideal for athletes. The targeting of the muscle and tendons within the body is key for athletic training. There are several key elements to sports massage. To better understand each of these, let’s look at them separately.

Reduce muscle tension by decreasing muscle stiffness and soreness after exercise

Massage can alleviate muscle pain. If an athlete is stiff and sore due to an injury or working hard, he or she will not be performing at their peak with regular massage, muscle pain can be curbed and the athlete can perform at peak without being distracted by pain or injury. This occurs by removing lactic acid build up in the muscle and stripping the muscle of any other toxins.

 

Helps Prevent injuries

Consistent massage increases flexibility which leads to an increase in the range of motion a muscle requires. For an athlete to maintain optimal performance, they must have a high degree of flexibility. No matter which sport or sports the athlete is involved in, if a client can gain more flexibility from massage, then they will have an advantage over there competitors since massage stretches the muscle fibres, flexibility is promoted and maintained.

 

Improves blood and movement circulation

With better circulation, the athlete can breathe easier and move more smoothly. Since the practice of massage helps with blood flow, by pumping it back to the heart quicker to me oxygenated thus improving an athlete’s performance.

 

Dilates the blood vessels supplying fresh nutrients

Massage acts to dilate the blood vessels which increases the efficiency of both supplying fresh nutrients to the tissues and eliminating metabolic wastes out of the body at a faster rate.

 

Helps drain sluggish lymphatic material

Massage acts as a mechanical cleanser, helping to drain sluggish lymphatic material. Good lymphatic circulation is very important for ridding the body of toxic materials like lactic acid build up and calcium which are commonly known as ‘knots’.

 

Improves muscle tone

Massage improves muscle tone by mechanically stimulating inherent reflexes found within muscle fibres. (This is particularly important to those who do not obtain adequate daily exercise due to a sedentary lifestyle or long periods of convalescence.)

 

Prevents adhesions

When muscle fibres start to adhere together it restricts their full range of motion. Transverse massage strokes help to prevent adhesions from occurring in between the muscle fibres, again these adhesions are commonly known as knots. Adhesions build up bigger and the muscle cannot do its job to the best of its ability with the restriction stopping the flexibility in the muscle. Eg. The muscles belly becomes short and tight.

 

If you would like to book in for a sports massage to help with your recovery, give our office in North Sydney a call 02 9955-5110. Alternatively you can book online here.

The Lingering Effects of Ankle Sprains

The Lingering Effects of Ankle Sprains

By Dan Gartner and Andrew Lim

 

Everyone has experienced an ankle sprain before. But what exactly happens when you sprain your ankle and what could be the lingering effects? Read more to find out.

 

An ankle sprain is an injury of the ligaments of the ankle. Ligaments are like ropes that join bone to bone and hold the joint together in a stable and functional position. Their role is to restrict potentially damaging excessive movements of the bones and soft tissues of the joint.

 

Ankle sprains are a common injury, especially in the sporting population but not exclusively. They are commonly seen in sports that involves sudden stopping or changes of direction i.e.  football/soccer, rugby, netball and AFL.

Some ankle sprains are completely unpreventable and a result of unforeseen external factors, such as stepping on another player’s foot, or a player falling on top of you, poor ground conditions and even poor equipment (shoes). However, some ankle injuries may be preventable. Injuries that arise spontaneously without any external contributing factors, generally from poor mechanics and control of the lower limb, premature fatigue, or from lack of strength or flexibility are to a degree preventable.

 

455px-Lateral-ankle-ligaments

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There are numerous ligaments in the ankle, which can be injured. Depending on the direction of the sprain, different structures can be damaged. By far the ‘inversion’ injury is the most common.

ankle sprain

During an Inversion sprain of the ankle the most common ligaments injured are the lateral ligaments and more specifically at the front of the ankle, called the anterior talo-fibular ligament or ATFL. This ligament is injured when the foot is rolled underneath (inverted).  When the body weight falls through this direction the ligaments’ breaking capacity is exceeded and the ligament tears.

There are 3 grades of injury, a grade 3 or complete rupture of these ligaments being the worst.  This is when the ligament separates from either itself or the insertion to the bone.  In either case there is excessive movement now that affects the movements and stability of the joint.

 

A lower grade sprain of the ATFL can be managed with rest, ice, compression and elevation (RICE) and will usually resolve of its own accord in 2-4 weeks.  Rehab generally involves some re-strengthening of the lateral muscles of the leg and some re-learning of foot position sense and balance.  Grade 2 and 3 tears need to be managed more conservatively and should be assessed as early as it possible.

 

Fully recovered from a previous ankle sprain? Think again.

 

What we often observe in practice is that your pain and swelling may disappear over a few weeks to months, however quite often your ankle may still be left with limited range of motion. The irony is that patients are presenting with another complaint like foot, knee, hip or back pain) but we find the ‘weakest’ link in the lower limb is the ankle.

 

Dorsi-flexion movements or raising the foot towards the shin bone, is commonly decreased in ankle sprains, even after you think you have fully recovered. Dorsi flexion plays quite an important role in human movement. To walk, run, squat, lunge, kneel and/or move properly, you require adequate dorsi flexion in your ankle. Quite often if you lose the ability to dorsi flex your ankle another neighbouring joint will have to make up for it by moving more and working harder.

Let me give you a few examples of what can happen if you lose the ability dorsi flexion at the ankle:

  1. Foot pronates more
  2. Knee turns in more
  3. Hip turns in more

 

Single Leg squat

These are just the effects on the lower limb (we won’t touch on the torso and upper body) that result from poor ankle dorsi flexion. As you can see there are a lot of other joints that can compensate for the loss of motion at the ankle. This also increases the risk of other types of injuries (plantar fascitis and patella femoral pain) which may arise down the track if ankle dorsi flexion limitations are not addressed and managed properly.

 

So as you can see, an old ankle injury that is not rehab-ed back to a functional state can leave you at risk of having other injuries.

 

Am I at risk?

 

In practice, we use a few tests that may indicate if you have limited dorsi flexion or at risk of other lower limb injuries. A simple test that you can perform yourself at home or work is called a Knee to Wall test, performed in the video below.

 

During this test we suggest;

  1. Testing both sides with your shoes off.
  2. Use a ruler or measuring tape to get an accurate measure.
  3. Your heel needs to stay firmly on the ground during this test.
  4. Your knee needs to touch the wall at a point directly over your second toe.
  5. You need to have between 10 and 12 cm from your big toe to the wall to be considered a normal test. Anything less is considered a fail. Especially if one ankle measures less than the other (not so bad if both are equally less than 10-12cm, but still significant).

 

I have limited Dorsi Flexion in my ankle/s! What now?

 

Firstly, don’t stress!

This is a very common presentation in practice, and often overlooked as the initial pain and swelling of the previous injury has passed.

 

Secondly, a few questions to ask yourself:

  1. Have you injured your ankle/s before?
  2. Do you have any other lower limb complaint on this side?
  3. Have you noticed previous injuries have always occurred on the same side as your dodgy ankle?

 

If you answered yes to any of these questions, then most likely your limited dorsi flexion at your ankle may be contributing to poor lower limb function and increasing your risk for future (or past) lower limb injuries.

 

Prevention vs Cure

 

Finally, I would suggest consulting to one of our team at Functional Health and Performance, North Sydney for a more though assessment of your ankle and lower limb. Only after assessing you, will it be possible to formulate an appropriate treatment and rehab/prehab plan to minimise risk and prevention of future injuries to your lower limb.

 

To speak to one of our team at Functional Health and Performance in North Sydney, contact our office via email info@functionalhp.com.au or by phone 02 9955-5110 or via our online booking system.