Super Bowl is less than a week away! And this year marks its 50 anniversary, pretty exciting. Over the last few years the NFL has been gaining negative media attention with the off-field behaviour of its players, deflated balls, and the rise in concussion amongst past and present players. Although a very serious injury many of you would be surprised to note that concussions are not the most common injury experienced by players. In fact 50% of all injuries sustained by NFL players include the lower limb. Concussions account for only 7.4% of football injuries. OF the lower limb the knee is most commonly injured joint. Common injuries include, sprained/torn ACL, Torn Meniscus and Sprained/Torn MCL. Here’s the breakdown:
Ligament Injuries: There are four ligaments in the knee: the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), the posterior cruciate ligament (PCL), the lateral collateral ligament (LCL), and the medial collateral ligament (MCL). All of these ligaments work to connect the bones of the upper leg to the bones of the lower leg and all are susceptible to injury in football players. When one (or more) of these ligaments tear, players usually notice a distinct popping sound accompanied by severe pain, swelling, and weakness.
ACL and PCL injuries just about always require surgery to reconstruct the torn ligament because these ligaments are not good at healing themselves. Expect players to miss the rest of the season as they undergo surgery and then several months of physical therapy.
MCL injuries usually result from blows to the outside of the knee joint, causing the ligament to stretch or tear. Rest, ice, and anti-inflammatory medications are generally sufficient for treating MCL tears because this ligament is fairly good at self-healing. Surgery isn’t usually required unless the tear is severe and other parts of the knee such as the ACL or meniscus are involved. LCL injuries are fairly rare, as they tend to result from blows to the inside of the knee joint.
Meniscus Injuries: Each knee has two menisci – small, C-shaped pieces of cartilage that serve as a cushion between the bones of the shin and thigh. These menisci can tear if the knee is rotated too forcefully, especially if the joint is bearing weight when the twisting occurs. Pain, swelling, and stiffness are all symptoms of a torn meniscus. Additionally, players might feel like the injured knee is locked in place. Minor injuries can be treated with rest, ice, and anti-inflammatory medications, but severe tears require surgery and physical therapy.
Although these are common injuries in professional athletes, I often treat these conditions in amateur athletes and weekend warriors. With contact sports like football is can be difficult to prevent these injuries. But follow these few tips to better protect your knees
Flexibility of the Hip and Thigh Musculature In any injury prevention program, flexibility or a stretching program of the surrounding muscles is crucial. The muscles most important for prevention of knee injuries are the hip and thigh muscles: the gluteals, hip adductors or groin muscles, and the knee flexors and extensor.
Strengthening of the Hip, Thigh
As with any injury prevention program, strengthening of the muscles surrounding the knee is important. The muscles that should be the focus of a knee injury prevention program are the hip muscles: gluteus maximus or hip extensors; rectus femoris and iliopsoas or hip flexors; and the hip adductors.
Avoid Overtraining, Regardless of Activity Choice Overtraining is a concern with any activity, be it walking, running, swimming, or the plethora of other choices available to exercisers. The first step in avoiding knee overtraining is to choose your activity wisely to ensure it’s a good fit. For example, if you have many lower-leg problems, knee pain, or a history of back pain, a non-weight-bearing activity such as swimming may be a better choice than running.
References : American College of Sports Medicine
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