Is there any better time of year in Texas? Fall is here, and that means football. Friday night high school football. Saturday afternoon college football. Sunday pro football. Yes, football is life in Texas…but sometimes life brings us injuries, especially at the high school level.
Unfortunately, injuries are a major part of football–after all, it’s a violent sport. The Colorado School of Public Health’s Program for Injury Prevention, Education & Research (PIPER) conducts an annual National High School Sports-Related Injury Surveillance Study by collecting injury research data from high school athletic trainers. This includes reports from 100 schools and estimates for all high school athletes. From there, PIPER extrapolates the number of injuries from these reports and creates a nationwide estimate based on those figures.
According to PIPER’s report for the 2018-2019 school year, there were 1,612 high school football injuries reported, with 927 occurring in competition and 685 during practice. Based on these numbers, PIPER estimated the number of injuries in high school football across the country as 455,449, with 259,317 occurring in competition and 196,132 during practice! Those 455,000-plus injuries were twice the estimated number of injuries sustained in girls’ soccer, which was #2 on the list.
The more you know about injuries, however, the better prepared you’ll be to help avoid them and treat them. So, let’s take a look at some of the more common football injuries.
Leading the way in high school football injuries are concussions and head/face injuries. And it’s no surprise. As a Texan, you’ve likely witnessed head injuries take place on the field–and you’ve probably missed just as many as well. In what used to be a sign of toughness, a player would often return to the field shortly after “getting his bell rung” or sustaining what might have been labeled a “minor concussion.”
What we now know is that there really is no such thing as a minor concussion. All concussions are serious and can build upon themselves and lead to chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, a progressive brain condition that’s thought to be caused by repeated blows to the head and repeated episodes of concussion. You’ve heard the horror stories of former NFL players who suffered–and ultimately died–from effects of CTE, so concussions are nothing to mess with. They’re quite common in high school football–nearly 23% of all high school football injuries are concussions or head/facial injuries.
How It Can Happen: As a football fan, you know exactly how these injuries happen. Helmet-to-helmet hits, violent collisions with other players, the head hitting the ground at a high speed, a finger to the eye–these actions all cause concussions and head/face injuries, despite the fact that players are always wearing helmets. As safe as helmet manufacturers try to be, there’s only so much that can protect the brain and head from a violent blow.
Symptoms: Simply put, concussions can be pure misery and should always be taken seriously. There are three grades of concussions that doctors use for a diagnosis.
- Grade 1: Mild, no loss of consciousness, symptoms last less than 15 minutes
- Grade 2: Moderate, no loss of consciousness, symptoms last more than 15 minutes
- Grade 3: Severe, loss of consciousness (even if it only lasts a few seconds)
Concussion symptoms tend to vary by individual, but most people experience at least one of these symptoms:
- Dizziness/balance problems
- Blurred vision
- Slurred speech
- Light/noise sensitivity
- Ringing in ears
- Difficulty concentrating
- Memory loss
- Behavior/personality change
Treatment: Immediate medical attention should be sought out if you suspect a concussion has been sustained. In most cases, rest (both cognitive and physical) is the best treatment for a concussion. This includes avoiding screens (phones, video games, TVs, computers, etc.) as well as activities that require concentration and attention. It’s important to rest your body as well, because physical activity may make symptoms worse and set your recovery back. Most people aren’t aware, but physical therapy and traumatic brain injury (TBI) symptom relief therapy also offers many benefits when recovering from a concussion. At Physical Therapy NOW in Irving, we can even evaluate you for a concussion right in our facility.
Knee Injuries and Tears
Knee injuries are the second most common injury sustained in high school football at 14%. And you’ve probably witnessed nearly as many knee injuries on the field as head injuries. The knee is a complex joint that takes on a lot of stress from sports. And the more stress that’s involved, the more likely the joint is to become injured. Of course, sudden injuries often occur in football, probably more so than in most other sports.
With the knee, the most frequent injuries are tears and ruptures of the various ligaments that stabilize and cushion the knee–these included the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), medial collateral ligament (MCL), posterior cruciate ligament (PCL), and the lateral collateral ligament (LCL). Of course, there are many, many other injuries involving other parts of the knee, such as the patellar tendon, meniscus, bursa sac, and kneecap, just to name a few.
How It Can Happen: While knee injuries in most sports are often the result of chronic wear and tear, football is a different animal. Because of the level of contact as well as the speed of the game, sudden injuries are common. For example, a player has a leg planted in the grass or turf and takes a blow to the knee while the foot is still stationery. Or a running back attempts to make a quick cut and his knee gives out. There are so many different scenarios that lead to sudden knee injuries such as a ligament tear–and they are frequently caused by non-contact movements where the knee simply gives out or hyperextends.
Symptoms: With any knee injury, you’re likely to experience varying levels of pain, swelling, redness, and tenderness while struggling to put weight on the leg/knee and bending the knee.
Treatment: Because of the complicated nature of knee injuries, as well as the different levels of severity, there are many types of treatment. You should definitely be examined by a doctor so your injury can be properly diagnosed and the right course of treatment can be planned. For more minor injuries like sprains or tendonitis, the RICE method is usually effective, as is physical therapy that can stretch and strengthen the knee area. For serious injuries, surgery may be required–but in some instances, physical therapy before the surgery may be prescribed to alleviate swelling prior to the procedure. And because the knee is such a tricky joint, PT is almost always a post-surgery necessity as part of the rehab process.
Read on for part two, so you can learn everything you need to know about common football injuries, and how PT can help.