Football players, both professionals and weekend warriors, will get hurt at some time while playing the
sport. Many of those injuries affect the knee, about one third, while the ankle and shoulder are also
common sites of musculoskeletal football injuries. While not all football injuries can be prevented, taking certain steps before and during practice and games can help reduce the number of serious problems. Orthopedic Specialist Dr. Kevin Plancher Offers Tips to Reduce Injuries, Improve Outcomes and Get Athletes Back on the Field.
A sunny fall weekend day practically calls football enthusiasts outdoors to toss around the pigskin. What many athletes don’t realize, however, is that up to 81 percent of U.S. football players, both professionals and weekend warriors, will get hurt at some time while playing the sport, according to recent American Journal of Orthopedics research. Many of those injuries affect the knee, about one third, while the ankle and shoulder are also common sites of musculoskeletal football injuries.
Dr. Kevin D. Plancher, MD, MS, FACS, FAAOS, a leading orthopaedic surgeon and sports medicine expert with offices in Manhattan and Greenwich, Conn., specializes in helping football players of all levels to avoid damage, reduce the number of injuries and improve the outcome of problems that do occur. “While not all football injuries can be prevented, taking certain steps before and during practice and games can help reduce the number of serious problems,” Dr. Plancher says. Dr. Plancher advises:
- properly condition the body while not overloading it
- learn correct techniques early in athletic development
- wear protective gear including helmets and pads plus appropriate, well-fitting footwear
- focus on conditioning and flexibility, including warming up and stretching before participating,
especially when the weather is cold
- take frequent water breaks to prevent dehydration and overheating
- learn to recognize early signs of pain and discomfort
- if you get hurt, see a physician to get evaluated before returning to the sport
“The good news is that studies have shown that football injuries are fairly rare among children, but
increase with age, weight and grade level,” Dr. Plancher says. “The bad news is that the older the player, the more prone to getting hurt on the football field.” According to the American Journal of Orthopedics, the incidence of knee injury among college football players is high, with more than half of players studied having a history of knee problems. “The numbers continue to increase with age and affect many parts of the body, but in particular the knee, the ankle and the shoulder.
“Unfortunately, even football players who follow every guideline may get hurt,” Dr. Plancher says. About 200,000 people injure their knees each year and half of those need surgery to repair the damage,
according to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons (AAOS). Tears or strain to the anterior
cruciate ligament, or ACL, which connects the thigh and shin bones and stabilizes the knee, is one of the most common knee injuries suffered while playing football. Symptoms include a popping sound or sensation at the time of ACL injury, and sharp or severe pain. The ACL does not heal on its own, and while patients may start to feel better over time, tears to this crucial ligament must be repaired quickly,” Dr. Plancher says. If treatment is delayed, it can increase the need for more aggressive treatment down the line and compromise the chance for full recovery. Patients treated with surgical reconstruction of the ACL have long-term success rates of up to 95 percent, according to the AAOS, and are able to return to sports. Sprained ankles – resulting from a ligament being forced to stretch beyond its normal range — are extremely common; about 25,000 people sprain an ankle each day. The more rare “high ankle sprain” or high syndesmotic ankle sprain, is common among football players and may cause severe pain and swelling. This type of sprain is an injury to the large ligament above the ankle that joins together the two bones of the lower leg, the tibia and the fibula, which run from the ankle to the knee. “Most ankle sprains can be treated by resting and icing the ankle, sometimes using a removable boot or splint, and elevating the foot,” Dr. Plancher says. “Surgery is rarely required for an ankle sprain.
“Shoulder injuries are among the most common problems among all athletes -professionals as well as
weekend warriors,” Dr. Plancher says. A shoulder separation occurs when the acromioclavicular, or AC,
joint on top of the shoulder is damaged. This type of injury is almost always the result of a sudden
traumatic event that can be attributed to a specific incident or action. “In football, the most common
reason for an AC separation is a direct blow to the shoulder,” Dr. Plancher says. “Treatment includes
resting the shoulder and wearing a sling, icing to reduce pain and swelling and physical therapy to
increase range or motion and strength. Most AC separations heal within two-to-three months. However, if
the ligaments are severely torn, surgery may be needed. Regardless of the injury, anyone who gets hurt on the football field, child or adult and professional or recreational, should see a doctor to rule out serious tears or ruptures to critical ligaments in the knee, ankle or shoulder. While some injuries can be treated with rest and ice, others may require surgical intervention to allow the athlete to get back on the playing field quickly and painlessly,” Dr. Plancher says.
Kevin D. Plancher, M.D., M.S., F.A.C.S., F.A.A.O.S, is a leading orthopaedic surgeon and sports medicine expert with treatment in knee, shoulder, elbow and hand injuries. Dr. Plancher is an Associate Clinical Professor in Orthopaedics at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in NY. He is on the Editorial Review Board of the Journal of American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.
A graduate of Georgetown University School of Medicine, Dr. Plancher received an M.S. in Physiology and
an M.D. from their school of medicine (cum laude). He did his residency at Harvard’s combined Orthopaedic program and a Fellowship at the Steadman-Hawkins clinic in Vail, Colorado where he studied
shoulder and knee reconstruction. Dr. Plancher continued his relationship with the Clinic for the next six years as a Consultant. Dr. Plancher has been a team physician for over 15 athletic teams, including high school, college and national championship teams. Dr. Plancher is currently the head team physician for Manhattanville College. Dr. Plancher is an attending physician at Beth Israel Hospital in New York City and The Stamford Hospital in Stamford, CT and has offices in Manhattan and Greenwich, Connecticut. http://www.plancherortho.com