With the FIFA world cup, the football fever has started!! And the school children are grasped by it. Playing football can be a great way for children and teens to take part in a team sport and stay physically active. However, it is important for players, coaches, and parents to understand that injuries can, and do, occur. Timely diagnosis and intervention for the injuries are of utmost importance. At the same time, one also must not forget-“prevention is better than cure”

What are the common injuries?

Traumatic injuries are most common in football because it is a high impact sport.  Constant running around at a variable pace & in a haphazard manner combined with falls during tackle results mainly in various fractures, and sprained or torn ligaments. Overuse injuries can occur from heavy training and conditioning. 
The injuries can involve the:

Foot Is protected with shoes however the spikes are dangerous. During tackle landing on another player can cause serious foot injuries.

Ankle- Football demands running with the ball with sudden accelerations & decelerations. If the ankle gets twisted the ligaments can get torn very badly. If the force is much more even fractures can happen. Such fractures are “non-forgiving” as they involve physis (growing area of the leg bone) & joints. Even though treated properly these injuries have the potential to cause deformities & later on ankle arthritis.

Knee: Especially among young children, football is a leading cause of serious knee injuries.  Common knee ligament injuries include the ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) and MCL (medial collateral ligament).  These injuries often happen after a tackle. Knee injuries can affect not only ligaments but also the meniscus and cartilage in the joint. This can lead to early arthritis. The growth plate is weaker than tendons and ligaments, and younger children may get fractures around the knee instead of a ligament tear. 

Hip – The tendinous attachment around the hip causes more problems than fractures. Sometimes they can keep the player off the field for weeks together.

Wrist & Hand injuries: “Jersey’s finger” is the commonest injury seen mainly in adolescents. During tackle, the player tries to hold the jersey and the tendon of the finger gets snapped off the bone attachment at the fingertip. A fracture at the wrist with a fall on an outstretched hand can be disabling if involve the growth plate.

Shoulder: Shoulder dislocations and separations are uncommon in children. A shoulder separation is actually a sprain of the joint near your collarbone, known as the AC (acromioclavicular) joint.  In growing children and young teenagers, a fracture at the growth plate of the end of the clavicle is more common than an AC separation.  Tears along with the tissue of the shoulder socket and unstable shoulders (partial dislocation) can also happen. 
Head:  Concussions are very common in football.  players can be injured from a direct hit to the head or from sudden jerking motions during a hit. A child with a concussion may have a headache, confusion, dizziness, nausea/vomiting, or blurry vision.  Any player with signs of a concussion needs to be immediately removed from play, checked by a medical professional, and cleared before return to play.

Heat Injuries: Because football practice often starts at the end of summer, heat injuries can occur.  They can range from heat exhaustion to heatstroke, which can be fatal.

Prevention It’s always wise to be proactive and take the necessary steps to prevent the occurrence of injuries.

  • Use of Proper Equipment

It’s important for kids to use proper equipment and safety gear that is the correct size and fits well. Ask your child’s coach about the appropriate shoes, mouthguards, athletic cups and supporters, and padding.

  • Maintenance and Appropriateness of Playing Surfaces

Check that playing fields are not full of holes and ruts that might cause kids to fall or trip

Adult Supervision and Commitment to Safety

Any team sport or activity that kids participate in should be supervised by qualified adults. Select leagues and teams that have the same commitment to safety and injury prevention that you do.

  • The team coach should have training in first aid and CPR, and the coach’s philosophy should promote players’ well-being. A coach with a win-at-all-costs attitude may encourage kids to play through injury and may not foster good sportsmanship. Be sure that the coach enforces playing rules and requires that safety equipment be used at all times.

And make sure your kids play sports that match their skill level, size, and physical and emotional maturity.

   Proper Preparation

Just as you wouldn’t send a child who can’t swim to a swimming pool, it’s important not to send kids to play a sport that they’re unprepared to play. Make sure that they know how to play the sport before going out on the field.

Kids should be adequately prepared with warm-ups and training sessions before practices and before games. This will help ensure that they have fun and reduce the chances of an injury. They also should drink plenty of fluids and be allowed periods of rest during practices and games.

  • Self Discipline- Last but not the list. Children should be taught about the fair play, sportsman spirit. Avoiding on field rough behavior, unnecessary tackles etc.

Emergency Management

  • Ice pack application
  • Splinting the injured part
  • Pressure over the bleeding area if any
  • Analgesic spray if required
  • Shift to hospital for further evaluation by a paediatric orthopaedic surgeon