Football is a fast moving and often explosive sport that places incredible demands on bodies, particularly the lower limbs. It is also very popular. The Australian Bureau of Statistics reports football participation in excess of 700,000 in any given year.
Injury statistics in running-based team sports (the rugby codes, soccer, Australian Rules and American football) indicate that a high proportion of injuries occur to the lower limbs.
Recent football studies indicate the incidence of injury ranges from 40-80%. Footwear was identified as an area that may provide solutions to the causes of injury.
The good news is, injury can be minimised or even prevented with the right strategies. Here are some of the common factors associated with football and how you can avoid injury pitfalls:
Too Much Football
Over-training in football is a major cause of injury. Far too often, pro and amateur athletes are exposed to repetitive training loads (x4-5 weekly) producing constant strain on muscles, joints and ligaments. Over-training causes overload on the body, an inability of muscles to function correctly, fatigue and injury. Distances recorded in the various codes show footballers running upward of 7 kilometres in the rugby codes, 12 km in football-soccer and 16 km in Australian Rules. The repetitive nature of pivoting, jumping, swivelling, landing and running on hard surfaces will cause problems with feet, ankles, shins and knees.
Lack of Preparation
Proper preparation including a warm-up and warm-down is a discipline and should form the basis for all codes of football. This includes coaches ensuring players have correct footwear. For example running shoes with cushioning and support should be used for all conditioning sessions that does not involve ball work. Failing to prepare with a warm-up is a major reason for straining soft tissue during a game; warming down and stretching the muscles reduces lactic acid and removes the risk of muscle strain after playing.
Playing on hard surfaces
Local football pitches are not kept in particularly good condition. They are exposed to extremes of weather. Commonly, the ground surfaces in Australia are hard and dry. The 2014 football season was the driest in more than 10 years with a 2-month rainfall total at Sydney Observatory Hill of just 84.4mm, the fourth-warmest winter since 1910. As a consequence the number of lower limb musculoskeletal injuries presented to a selection of sports medicine clinics in Sydney increased by 350%. Worse, admissions to hospitals for football related injuries also increased.
The Correct Equipment: Football boots
Poor fitting football boots compress the foot causing blisters, ingrown toenails and discomfort. While these conditions do not prevent football participation, a misconception among footballers is that wearing a smaller fitting foot enables better ball control-contact. No evidence for this exists, but what is clear is that wrongly fitted boots will cause musculoskeletal injury due to adverse effects on the lower legs, knees and ultimately the back.
The wrong shoe is a known risk factor for injury. For example a flat-footed person needs a supportive shoes while a high arch foot requires cushioned shoe. A common trend is the use of very lightweight shoes for training. The misinformation here is the belief that lighter shoes will increase speed. This is nonsense.
Shoe Buddy has a section on the most up-to-date football boots you may want to check out. The wrong shoe will detract from performance and make you vulnerable to injury; with the correct shoe, enjoy kick many goals, score many tries, and hold the cup aloft!
*Note: Image Football Shoes courtesy of Surachai at freedigitalphotos.net