It’s Football Season in Lacey, WA
It’s fall here in the Pacific Northwest. Along with the changing leaves and cooler weather comes football season. According to the 2018 NEISS (National Electronic Injury Surveillance Survey), football-related injuries accounted for an estimated 153,000 injuries for children aged 0 to 14. Kids as young as five years old play full-contact football with pads and helmets. Football-related injuries are the leading cause of debilitating sports injuries among male high school athletes. Before enrolling in any high-contact sport, parents should ensure their children get a full sports physical.
Common Football-Related Injuries
While overuse injuries can occur while training for any sport, football-related injuries tend to be more traumatic due to the intense physical nature of the competition. High-speed collisions with other players and the field lead to fractures, sprained ligaments, and concussions.
Head injuries are among the most common and severe injuries children can sustain while playing football. Even if everyone wears the proper protective gear, players get hurt when they collide with each other due to sudden jerking motions or a direct hit to the head. Concussions are common, and just because a player doesn’t lose consciousness does not mean he or she didn’t have a concussion. Instead, any player with signs of a concussion such as a headache, confusion, nausea, dizziness, or blurry vision should be immediately evaluated by a medical professional. Any child exhibiting symptoms of a head injury should be removed from play until cleared by a doctor.
Another common football-related injury is to the shoulder. Shoulder dislocations and separations are typical in school-aged football games. Most commonly, these injuries occur as a result of direct contact with another player or the field. Additionally, overuse injuries to the rotator cuff can occur from repetitive motion, such as throwing the football. A proper tackling technique can go a long way toward preventing these types of injuries in football. Make sure children understand the importance of correct technique in such a high-contact sport. Partial dislocation can occur when players such as linemen tear the tissue in the shoulder socket. Players need to speak up about any shoulder pain and have it checked by a professional before continuing play.
Football is a leading cause of knee injuries, especially among school-aged children. Most often, knee injuries occur during and after a tackle. While knee injuries often affect the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and the mediate collateral ligament (MCL), they also affect the knee’s meniscus and cartilage. Knee injuries can lead to chronic pain and early arthritis. Some professional football players wear custom knee braces, but there is no evidence that they prevent injuries. The best way to avoid knee injuries on the field is to make sure players are aware of proper tackling techniques as well as other players’ positions on the ground.
Finger, Ankle, and Wrist Fractures
Due to the high-contact nature of football, children (and adults) often suffer from finger, ankle, or wrist fractures. The best way to prevent these fractures is to be aware of other players on the field and to practice proper tackling technique. Strength and conditioning aimed at strengthening these joints should also be included in football training. Players with problem joints should consult with their physician before participating in high-contact sports such as football.
Many high schools begin football practice during the summer. As a result, heat-related injuries are common among school-aged football players. Heat-related injuries can be incredibly severe. They range from heat exhaustion to heatstroke, which can and has resulted in death. Ensure children and teenagers are adequately hydrated at all times. Keep a lookout for heat exhaustion symptoms such as confusion, dizziness, fatigue, nausea, and muscle cramps. Drinking fluids and moving to a shaded area may treat heat exhaustion. However, more severe cases of heat-related injuries need to be addressed by a medical professional as soon as possible.
Football Injury Prevention
While bumps and bruises are inevitable for a child playing a high-contact sport like football, more serious injuries need more prevention. Follow these tips to help prevent injuries in school-aged children and teenagers.
Warming up and stretching before practice and games is critical. Children and teenagers grow fast, and their muscles can tighten as a result. These tight muscles can lead to muscle strains without proper stretching. Make sure to pay attention to the hip flexor and quadriceps, as well as the hamstrings when stretching.
Well-fitting protective equipment should be worn at all times to protect players’ bodies during play. Make sure they wear the following and that all pieces of equipment are in good condition:
- Helmet with a facemask
- Mouthguard with a strap
- Shoulder pads
- Hip, tail, and thigh pads
- Knee pads
- Jock cup
Other Injury Prevention Tips
- Take care to ensure players receive a pre-season physical from a medical professional to rule out any conditions or injuries that could lead to problems during the football season.
- Make sure players train and condition during the off-season to keep up their strength and endurance.
- Hydrate before, during, and after games and practice to prevent cramping and dehydration. Make sure coaches have water available for players at all times. Tell players to inform their coaches if any muscle cramps occur, as this may be an early sign of heat exhaustion.
- Practice proper tackling techniques. Never attempt a tackle head- or helmet-first.
- Ensure all coaches encourage and promote safe play.
How Can Westcare Clinic Help?
In addition to pre-season physicals, the medical professionals at Westcare Clinic are here to help with any strains or sprains sustained during football season. Accidents happen, and even the most well-prepared athlete has a chance of getting hurt in a high-contact sport like football. Call today for an appointment or take advantage of our same-day walk-in services! We can also perform pre-employment exams so everyone in the family can get cleared to start their next adventure!