Are you ready for the Footy Season?
It’s finally that time of year again – the footy season is about to kick off! Unfortunately, the nature of the sport brings its fair share of injuries with it too. In my experience working with various footy clubs, these are the most common injuries that I’ve encountered – and how to help prevent them.
Concussion: This is a complex process which affects the brain, and is induced by traumatic mechanical forces – most commonly a direct blow to the head. Concussion is common in all contact sports, with professional horse jumping jockeys and AFL players having the highest rate of concussion of any sport. At the present time, it is theorized that the severity of a concussion can be reduced by improving the condition of the neck musculature. Although this will not prevent head injury, it is thought that properly conditioned neck muscles are able to absorb and withstand some of the force that occurs with impact.
ACL & MCL (knee ligament) sprain/tear: The anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) is located within the knee joint, and functions to prevent excess movement of the tibia (shin bone) on the femur (thigh bone). It is also imperative for control of rotational movement. The ACL is most commonly injured when landing from a jump, pivoting, or during sudden deceleration. Typically, a ‘pop’, ‘snap’ or ‘tear’ is felt or heard when the ACL is completely ruptured.
The medial collateral ligament (MCL) is located on the inner aspect of the knee, and provides support to the side of the knee where it connects the femur and the tibia. The MCL can be injured with a forceful blow to the outermost part of the knee.
Quadriceps and hamstring muscle strength are necessary for optimal knee control; particularly the ability to co-contract them. Balance and proprioception (the joint’s ability to know where it is in space) is also essential for knee control. This gives us the ability to walk, run and jump without having to look at where our legs and feet are. This function is often lost with joint injuries, particularly in the lower limbs.
Ankle sprains: This injury usually occurs when the ankle is ‘rolled’, which implicates the ligaments functioning to hold the joint in a stable position. Around 9/10 ankle sprains will affect the outside ankle. Studies have shown that balance and proprioception exercises (outlined above) and ankle taping/bracing are effective in preventing recurrent ankle sprains. At the present time, it is unknown which preventative methods are effective for first-time ankle sprains.
For each of these injuries, your physio will be able to conduct a thorough assessment of your area of concern, and tailor an exercise program specific to your needs.