The 2018 World Cup is here… For those of you who have withdrawal symptoms since the end of the regular league season, we have a virtually a month of non-stop football in store. As with all contact sports, there is a risk of picking up while playing football. After a long season of domestic and international competition, players are understandably tired and more prone to picking up injuries. Friendly internationals are used to try out team formations and selections and also to acclimatise to conditions, be it altitude, climate or diet. The more matches played, the greater the likelihood of some kind of injury being sustained, without taking into account how “friendly” these matches turn out to be.
WHAT ARE THE MOST COMMON FOOTBALL INJURIES
The majority of football injuries affect, as you would probably guess, the feet and legs. The most common injury in footballers is ankle sprain (swelling, pain and stiffness in the ankle, coupled with the inability to bear weight on the foot). Another fairly common foot injury in footballers are acute and stress metatarsal fractures (as made infamous by Wayne Rooney, David Beckham and Michael Owen). Recovery time from this type of injury is unpredictable and depends very much on the severity of the injury and the individual’s response to treatment. In general, 6 to 8 weeks is the predicted time of recovery, but in the case of Michael Owen (at the 2006 World Cup), he returned to action after 17 weeks.
Knee injuries are very common in footballers, with cartilage tears being the most common injury. This kind of injury almost prevented Uruguay and Barcelona striker, Luis Suárez, from participating at the World Cup in Brazil four years ago. He received a lot of intensive treatment to be able to compete. In hindsight, this may not have the best decision.
One of the most severe injuries that a footballer may face during their career is an Anterior Cruciate Ligament Tear. This injury can occur directly (resulting from a bad tackle or blow to the area) or indirectly (by pivoting or twisting the knee inappropriately). Recovery time for this type of injury generally takes several months to a year and involves intensive rehabilitation. In recent years, there have been advances in treatment, which have allowed more players to return to competition. That said, the severity of ACL tears means that very often footballers are forced retire from the game.
How many times have you seen a player pull up suddenly when sprinting after the ball? This is due to hamstring strains. The hamstrings are muscles at the back of your thigh and are prone to injury when over-stretched, causing muscle tissue to tear. Recovery time for hamstring strains depends on the severity of the injury. While it is a huge disappointment for players to miss out on competing in one of the world’s most watched sporting events through injury, there is no point rushing them back to fitness as it may only aggravate the strain.
Broken bones are, thankfully, not so frequent in football these days, mainly due to stricter refereeing. However, they do still occur and generally mean at least 6 to 8 weeks on the sidelines. Over the past month or so, there has been much speculation as to whether Liverpool and Egypt forward Mohamed Salah will be fit in time for the World Cup. He sustained a dislocated shoulder during the Champions League Final in May and it was feared that he would not be able to participate. Recent reports have stated that he has returned to training and may even be in contention for a place in the Egypt’s first match of the group stages. We wish him well with his recovery.
Head injuries are always to be taken with the utmost caution. Accidental collisions of heads and dangerously high challenges are part and parcel of football. If players lose consciousness after such incidents, they must be substituted as a precautionary measure (to ensure they are not suffering from concussion). Thankfully long gone are the days when horrific challenges (assaults) like this were permitted.