Inside Insights For Tackling Football Injuries

Start Page: 76
Achilles tendon ruptures can be caused by the repetition of dropping back to throw the football. A quarterback may throw the football up to 50 times in a game and a few hundred times during practice.
Ankle injuries are the second most common injury in football and rank just behind knee injuries when it comes to the amount of time lost from the football field. (Photo courtesy of Richard Braver, DPM)
Inside Insights For Tackling Football Injuries
A Guide To Common Lower Extremity Injuries At Different Positions
By Mark A. Caselli, DPM

   Fixation of the foot through rigid cleating has been shown to be a primary factor in the production of lower extremity injuries, particularly of the knee and ankle. To reduce these injuries, it is recommended to replace the conventional football shoe with synthetic molded soles with a minimum of 15 cleats per shoe, a minimum cleat diameter of 1/2 inch and a maximum cleat length of 3/8 inches.

   Finally, the type of playing surface also may be a potential predisposing factor for lower extremity injury. Interestingly, artifical turf was developed in part to help decrease foot fixation. However, a review of the literature shows a number of studies indicating that this type of surface increases the number of lower extremity injuries that lead to time away from the playing field.

Why Preventive Conditioning Can Go A Long Way

   One must stress early detection, rehabilitation and reevaluation of lower extremity strength imbalances and deficiencies as key injury prevention measures. There is evidence that 80 percent of all knee injuries occur to the weaker of two legs with as many as 88 percent of injuries occurring to athletes with leg length inequalities. Athletes with poor muscle strength, particularly in the quadriceps, hamstring and gastrocnemius muscles, are more prone to injury due to the lack of support these muscles provide to the surrounding structures of the knee and other joints. It also appears that athletes with tight heel cords may be more susceptible to lower extremity injury.

   The lack of a year-round conditioning and rehabilitation program also may be a potential risk factor. A mandatory, year-round, football-specific conditioning and training program should seek to:

   • improve muscular and ligament imbalances and weaknesses;
   • facilitate coordination and timing;
   • improve flexibility, mobility and agility; and
   • enhance cardiovascular and endurance capacities.

   An incorporated rehabilitative running program should mimic what the football player will be doing on the field.

   The running program should stimulate the joints in all planes of movement. When possible, receivers and running backs should carry the football and have someone throw the football to them. Defensive backs and linebackers should do more than half their running backward in order to simulate covering the receiver and their position-specific demands.

Dr. Caselli is a Staff Podiatrist at the VA Hudson Valley Health Care System in Montrose, N.Y. He is also an Adjunct Professor at the New York College of Podiatric Medicine and is a Fellow of the American College of Sports Medicine.

For related articles, see “Essential Tips For Tackling Football Injuries” in the September 2002 issue and “Recognizing And Preventing Dehydration In Athletes” in the December 2004 issue.

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