Baseball may be the “American Pastime” but Football is definitely America’s Passion. Whether it’s the Friday Night Lights, the pageantry of Saturday college afternoons or the glory of the NFL, football has grabbed our attention.
As the football season draws near, we thought it would be an excellent idea to look at the sport through the eyes of a Sports Medicine trained Team Physician. According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, in 2007 alone, more than 920,000 athletes under the age of 18 were treated for a football-related injury. The four most common injuries seen are: traumatic injuries, concussions and overuse injuries.
Traumatic Injuries result from direct contact to another player, teammate or the playing field. Football players must produce force, absorb force and re-direct force in a short period of time in order to make plays on the field and sometimes injuries occur during these explosive moments. Knee injuries are common, especially to the Anterior Cruciate Ligament or ACL as commonly referred. The ACL, along with the PCL, is involved in knee stabilization. A sprain or a rupture may occur when the foot is planted and the knee twists to change direction. Generally, a “pop” in the knee is a common characteristic of such damage, followed by immediate swelling. Loss of stability and a limited range of motion are also symptoms of ACL damage.
If the damage is not severe, immobilization and RICE (rest, ice, compress, elevate) may be enough to prevent further injury. However, should the ACL tear completely, surgery may be the only option to returning to an active lifestyle.
Damage to this part of the knee will make it instable, prone to arthritis and even cartilage tears. Non-surgical alternatives are available, but require personal sacrifice of more demanding physical activities. If you are willing to limit yourself to low-impact sports like cycling or swimming, a brace and rehab may be all you need to repair your ACL. However, if you enjoy sports like football, arthroscopic surgery is generally recommended.
In ACL reconstruction arthroscopic surgery, the torn ligament is cut and replaced with graft tissue either from your own body or from a suitable donor. Screws are placed to anchor the graft down. In order to help reduce the chance of these season-ending injuries, Dr. Levengood and Sports Medicine South partnered with Bledsoe Bracing to supply 6 pair of knee braces for the starting Offensive Lineman of each Gwinnett Count varsity football team last season. The results were amazing! The amount of knee injuries that required games lost decreased
Concussions are a change in the mental state of an athlete due to direct impact to the head. There are mild, moderate, and severe concussions but all should be taken seriously. Mild concussions generally present with possible memory loss, some mental confusion, a ringing in the ears, and dizziness in addition to pain around the area trauma was sustained.
Moderate concussions have a higher chance for memory loss, increased dizziness and imbalance, and nausea/vomiting. Severe concussions include higher rates of all the aforementioned along with loss of consciousness for more than five minutes and a possibility of retrograde amnesia.
Athletes suffering from concussions should be taken out of their sport completely until fully healed. This means a gradual return to activity when given the green light – starting with walking and stationary cycling and moving up from there.
Overuse Injuries are common in the sport of football but one that seems to be rising is injuries to the low back due to repeated loaded extension and rotation. This results in an injury called spondylolysis (pars fracture). It is an overuse injury where repeated stress to a bone called the pars causes a fracture. Most competitive sports carry a heightened risk for this injury, like gymnastics, dance, soccer, football, and others. Anytime the spine is flexed forward, bent back, or rotated many times, there is a risk for injury.
Treatment for this injury is not universal; doctors are still trying to come to an agreement. Sometimes, wearing a brace and engaging in physical therapy is recommended, other times electrical stimulation, and in some instances, surgery to correct it.
If you or your child suffer a football-related injury and need assistance in determining the best plan of care, call our office at 770-237-3475 and speak with one of our professionals today!