As students head back to school after the summer, it’s time for the football team to dig in, start training, and get ready for those all-important games. Unfortunately, along with the start of the football season comes the potential for injury–and football players have a higher risk for injury than participants in any other sport. Whether you’re out on the field for a game or in the middle of an intense practice, however, the last thing you want is to end up with an injury. Not only are injuries painful, they could potentially take you out of the game when you need to be there the most, making it impossible for you to be seen by college scouts and decreasing your chances of that all-important athletic scholarship. Here’s the good news: some of the most common high school football injuries can be avoided with proper care and effort.
The Most Common Injuries
Among high school football players, the most common injuries were to the ankle and knees. Ankle sprains, ligament sprains and injuries, meniscus tears, and torn hamstrings are all relatively common injuries among football players. Any time the knees, ankles, and legs are injured, it has the potential to significantly impact long-term involvement in the sport, making it critical that football players take the necessary steps to avoid potential injury during games and practice.
Football injuries aren’t restricted to the legs, however. Many football players have also experienced concussions, which require immediate medical care. Heat injuries are extremely common during training, particularly in southern states, where intense heat is part of the regular training schedule.
Prevention Starts With Warm-Up
Your warm-up routine is every bit as important as the rest of your training schedule. It can be tempting to rush through your warm-up or even skip it altogether, especially if you’re running late. Before beginning practice or heading out for a game, however, it’s critical to ensure that your body is warmed up. Your blood should be flowing, your muscles stretched, and your entire body ready for the game ahead. A good warm-up should include:
- Dynamic stretches
- Static stretches
- Drills that get your blood flowing
Your warm-up is also a great time to get your head in the game and make sure you’re prepared for the game or practice ahead. You don’t want to head out onto the field while you’re still thinking about the test you have coming up in a couple of days, the argument you had with a buddy on your way to practice, or the pretty girl in your class. A solid warm-up routine will help shift your attention to the game–which is a huge step for ensuring that you’ll protect your body against injury.
Heat Injury Prevention
Heat injuries are on the rise across America, and high school athletes are particularly susceptible. Heat exhaustion and heat stroke are survivable when they’re treated promptly, but if they’re ignored, these symptoms can be fatal. As an athlete, however, there are several steps you can take to help avoid these problems.
Before the season starts, make the effort to get in shape. Students who are overweight to obese are at a higher risk than their healthier peers. You should also take the time to acclimate yourself to the heat, spending plenty of time outside throughout the summer to make it easier to withstand the hot temperatures once practice begins.
During practices and games, make sure you’re staying adequately hydrated. Drinking water before, during, and after exercise is critical to staying hydrated and preventing yourself from losing too much water through sweat. Take off those sweat-soaked t-shirts on a regular basis and exchange them for fresh ones: it might mean more laundry, but it will also help keep you cooler.
Know the signs and symptoms. If you experience any of these signs of heat stroke or heat exhaustion, you need to immediately notify your coach and cool down.
- Excessive fatigue, or feeling more exhausted than you should given the amount of exercise you’ve completed
- Inability to think clearly
- A feeling of lethargy or lack of caring about what’s going on around you, even during a challenging practice or game
- Sudden awkwardness: fumbling fingers, tripping over your own two feet, or an inability to complete a play that’s usually effortless
- Dizziness or a pounding headache
- Dry mouth that won’t quit even after you’ve had water or a sports drink
- Cold chills in spite of the fact that you’re out in the hot part of the day
When it comes to heat-related injuries, the rule is that you should try to cool down first, then seek further treatment if necessary. Move indoors to air conditioning or sit in the shade for a little while. Taking care of yourself when you start showing signs of a potential heat injury can help keep you on the field and playing the game you love.
Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate
A well-hydrated body isn’t just a great way to avoid heat exhaustion, heat stroke, and heat cramps. It’s also a great way to avoid other types of injury. A well-hydrated body functions better, making it less likely that you’ll be injured while you’re playing. Keep that water bottle close and keep drinking before, during, and after practice for the best results.
Remember Your Protective Gear
Properly-fitted protective gear is critical to avoiding injury throughout football season. As a teenager, you may still be experiencing rapid periods of growth. New equipment is expensive, but if it doesn’t fit right, you won’t get the protection you need against injury. Full protective gear includes:
- A well-fitted helmet
- A mouthguard that’s form-fitted to your teeth
- Bracing, wraps, or sleeves to support weak joints or those that have been injured in the past
- An athletic cup
Don’t get sloppy with your protective gear. It’s not “cool” to throw it together in a hurry and get ready to go. Instead, it puts you at higher risk for injury.
Before the football season begins, you should have a full health and wellness evaluation to ensure that you’re ready to give it your all. Unknown health problems can cause serious issues out on the field, so make sure you take the time to sit down with your doctor and discuss any problems or concerns you’re having. That physical isn’t just a hoop you have to jump through. It’s also the best way to ensure your health throughout the season.
Once the season begins, make sure you’re practicing common safety tips. These include:
- Avoid leading with the head when you’re tackling.
- Follow the rules on the field: grabbing face masks, blocking below the knees, and other safety violations are against the rules for a reason!
- Learn how to protect yourself safely: when to brace for impact, where to take a hit when you know you’re going to be tackled, etc.
- Stay aware of what’s going on when you’re on the field.
Note Concussion Symptoms
In spite of your best efforts, there will be times when you’re injured on the field. Keep in mind that you don’t have to pass out to have a concussion. Be aware of signs and symptoms of concussion that can crop up during or after a game, including:
- Continuing head or neck pain following a collision
- Overall confusion or difficulty concentrating
- Increased sensitivity to stimulation including lights and sounds
- Blurred vision
- Ringing in the ears
If you have any of these symptoms, let your coach or parent know and make sure that you get checked out by a doctor right away. Proper medical care is critical when you’ve experienced a concussion.
Injuries to football players may have become all too common, but that doesn’t mean they have to happen to you. By following some of these simple steps, you can help avoid the risks of serious injury–and that means that you’ll be able to keep playing longer. Looking for a great source of protective sports gear or want to learn more about injury prevention? Contact us today to learn more.