We all know how devastating it is when one of our team goes down on the pitch with an injury, and it’s even more devastating for the player as it could mean their ability to continue playing is jeopardised.
Whether professional or amateur, it is extremely important to look after our bodies before during and after playing so as to avoid injury. We have been speaking to Orthopaedic Consultant Mr Bhupinder Mann who practises at the home of our Medical Sponsors, BMI The Chiltern Hospital in Great Missenden. He often sees and treats players for football inflicted injuries, including our own Wycombe Wanderers, and we wanted to ask him a few questions about what we can do to help avoid injury.
What is the most common injury that you see and treat in footballers?
The anterior cruciate ligament rupture is probably the most common injury I see in football players. This typically involves an indirect twist through the knee whilst the foot is planted firmly into the ground. There is often an associated pop or click followed by a rapid onset of swelling. Rest, elevation and ice packing are important first aid measures. Diagnosis is often made clinically and confirmed by performing an MRI scan.
The main symptom is giving way of the knee. This leads to a loss of confidence in the knee and an inability to play football.
What treatment is available and how long does it take to recover?
The first line of treatment is physiotherapy to help strengthen the whole of the limb. This includes functional core and gluteal muscle strengthening as well as focussing on the muscles around the knee.
Some people can significantly improve after physio and may not require surgery.
For those who continue to experience giving way after physio and are finding it difficult to return to football the recognised treatment is an Anterior Cruciate Ligament reconstruction.
The surgery itself is only the beginning in a long chain of events! A dedicated course of rehabilitation is mandatory following the surgery. This rehab is as important as the surgery and lasts for up to a year post surgery.
Risks and side effects
The risks include re-rupture, infection, clots, numbness and swelling. In rare circumstances complete resolution of symptoms and return to pre injury function remains impossible.
What would you advise someone who plays football regularly to do to avoid this type of injury?
Warm up before playing by stretching!
Also having a strong core and posterior muscular chain will help minimise your chances of losing balance and twisting across the knee.
In your opinion are professional football players more prone to injury than amateur players?
Difficult to say. Professional football players are more likely to have better neuromuscular limb control than say a “weekend warrior” and therefore less prone to injury. However they are also more likely to incur a higher velocity injury!
What other sports could you recommend to strengthen the muscles at risk in football?
I would try Yoga, Pilates or fitness training to keep on top of your game – they are good for muscle and core strength.