Football’s a great sport, at any level for improving your fitness. But the pitch can also be a dangerous place, especially if a Roy Keane or a Norman Hunter is about!
The bane of any manager’s life is injured players — just look at all the pros that miss months of matches due to strains, sprains and other injuries.
The Swans themselves suffered some crucial injury blows during the latter stages of last season, with key players like Wilfried Bony and Leroy Fer missing the crucial end of season run-in due to an anterior cruciate knee ligament tear and ruptured achilles respectively, both ironically suffered against Leicester City back in February.
To make sure you give 100% at every game, it’s critical you avoid incurring an injury. Check out our guide to the most prevalent injuries in football and find out how to safeguard yourself from harm.
Many of you will remember that Swansea City club captain Angel Rangel was out for around six weeks during February and March this year due to a groin strain injury and there have been countless other professional footballers who have been left on the bench because of this injury.
If you strain your groin, you’ve basically over-extended your abductor muscles, found in your inner thigh.
A slight strain will often cause some pain, however, serious groin strain injuries can impede on your ability to walk and run, which is a serious flaw for a football player.
If you do plenty of pre-match stretches, you will help to lower the risk of a groin injury. Make sure you stretch your inner and outer thigh muscles daily and see if you can also get regular sports therapy or massage treatments to keep these muscles flexible.
A strong core enhances pelvic stability, which will also reduce the chance of groin strains, so do plenty of planks and crunches as part of your basic workout routine. Resistance bands are also very handy for strengthening your inner thigh muscles and preventing groin strain.
When you mention a pulled hamstring, most Swansea fans will utter the words Jefferson Montero, who seemed to be plagued by this injury.
The hamstring is vital to how you perform in football. Sometimes your hamstring muscles can overstretch, resulting in pain at the back of the leg, as well as potentially bruising and swelling.
If you tear your hamstring, you could be out of action for a while, however, if you simply pull your hamstring, you should be fine to continue.
The first thing you’ll notice if you pull your hamstring is the pain, then you may see bruising and swelling. Reportedly, people with existing back issues are more susceptible to strained hamstrings, so to avoid this injury, loosen your back with exercises such as lumbar rotation stretches (lying on the floor and rolling your knees from side to side).
Basic glute stretches will ease muscles around your hips, while yoga will help you stay flexible, which will lower the risk of hamstring strain.
While squats, lunges and hamstring kicks are excellent for preventing this type of injury, another great exercise to ensure that your hamstring is protected during a match, try doing the Nordic ham curl:
- Kneel on the floor.
- Hook your feet under something sturdy and heavy that can take your weight or ask a partner to hold your feet to act as an anchor.
- Breathe deeply, engage your core and slowly lower yourself to the ground, using your hamstrings to keep your body straight.
- After reaching the ground, push yourself up and repeat.
Ruptured anterior cruciate ligament (ACL)
The ACL is found in the leg and is essential to stabilising your knee — any damage here will be painful and debilitating.
The ACL is often damaged by the twisting and turning of the leg, which means it’s a common injury for football players. If you hurt your ACL, it’ll be painful and you’ll likely see swelling around the area. But before then, you may hear and feel it pop or snap!
Rupture your ACL, and you might be out the game for a while to make sure it heals properly. According to HSS, Hospital for Special Surgery, you should do plenty of leg stretches like squats and walking lunges to help safeguard your ACL.
Having good balance — or proprioception — is vital if you want to avoid injuring your ACL too, so practice standing on one leg (30 seconds on each) regularly to boost your stability.
These exercises also help prevent injuries to your menisci, which are cartilages that protect the knee joint.
There are different kinds of sprained ankles, depending on how the injury occurs.
According to the CSP (Chartered Society of Physiotherapy), approximately 70-85% of these injuries are ‘inversion’ sprains, which means the ankle has been turned inwards — common when tackling and dribbling the ball.
If you’re looking to reduce the risk of a sprained ankle, try and do these exercises three times a week:
- Shin raises (lifting your toes, rather than your heels, off the ground).
- Calf raises.
- Ankle circles (both clockwise and anti-clockwise).
It is crazy to think that even now the Swans have at least 5 first team players – one of the highest in the Premier League when you consider squad sizes – whom are either injured or recovering from injury.
Kyle Bartley, Sam Clucas and Alfie Mawson all suffered from knee injuries, with the latter two undergoing operations as soon as the Premier League season finished on 13 May.
They are in addition to Bony and Fer of course, whom are currently recovering from their injuries with the help of the Swans medical and physical conditioning staff at Fairwood.
— Wilfried Bony (@wilfriedbony) May 26, 2018
Warm-ups and diet
Everyone who takes part in football needs to carry out a decent warm-up before starting a match.
According to a scientific study, taking part in a structured warm-up is effective at stopping players from suffering common football injuries and can reportedly even lower these by approximately 33%.
Warm-ups essentially prepare your muscles for strenuous exercise. But what does a good warm-up consist of? Here’s a top warm-up session to help you prepare your tendons, ligaments and muscles for a good performance:
5 minutes: jogging and side-stepping to boost your core temperature.
15 minutes: stretching, focusing on your quads, glutes, hamstrings, inner thighs, lower back, calves, Achilles tendon, and hip flexors. You should hold your stretch for ten seconds every time.
10 minutes: mimicking football movements without a ball including high kicks, squats, jumps, and side-foot passes.
10 minutes: practising shooting, heading, passing, and dribbling as a team with a football.
If you’re serious about football, you should also consider what types of nutrients you are feeding your body to perform at your best and avoid injury.
For example, protein and carbs — like eggs, brown rice, turkey and salmon — help to build muscle and provide energy.
Also, consider lowering your alcohol intake — it dehydrates you and leaves your muscles more susceptible to cramping and injury. Another way you can improve your health for football is by adding nutritional supplements to your die.
There’s little doubt that tips such as the above are used in football clubs around the world, but of course there is a responsibility on individual players to heed the advice given to them by the experts.
We’re pretty sure that many injuries can easily be avoided by simply preparing yourself for every football match in the correct way and by following just some the tips mentioned in this article.