Disclaimer: The editor, Benjamin, refuses to use the American term for the game that you play with your feet and which involves a round ball – football. Since this article is more about the typical injuries that can occur while playing sports as a non-professional athlete in your leisure time, not necessarily only about football, all of our American friends can learn something as well, even though they think of a different sport when they read the term football.
Playing fottball is sometimes as reckless as crossing the street with closed eyes when the traffic light shows a red light! Yes, you heard correctly. I, inherently a passionate Champions League and World Cup viewer, am going to blast the beautiful sport of football.
Why am I doing that? It’s pretty simple: because, after almost four years of absence, I have decided to pick up playing football with my old buddies from back in the days and play on the cinder pitches of the football association Mittelrhein. For old times’ sake. But it isn’t how it used to be.
Fear as the 12th man?
Nowadays, I inevitably have to face the benefits and risks of the game. It is simply a fact that I am now dependent on physical well-being because my job as a trainer demands that I am fully healthy. The times when I could rush into every one-on-one situation, every aerial duel, and every frontal crash with the opposing keeper without any regard for my own health, and that up to three times a week, are definitely over.
Fear is constantly following me on the pitch as the CIA follows our muslim fellow citizens!
What if a sliding tackle violently sweeps me off my feet? How high is the risk that I will twist my ankle when landing after an aerial duel because the opposing player pushes me in midair? A third of all sports-related injuries happen during football. No other sport has a similar potential for injuries. You could see the possible scale of football-related injuries in the recent weeks: Luke Shaw of Manchester United suffered an open tibia fracture in a group phase match in the Champions League and Johannes Geis of FC Schalke 04 hits his opposing player, Andre Hahn of Borussia Mönchengladbach, so badly that Hahn has to be carried off the pitch with a fractured tibial plateau and a torn lateral meniskus. Both players are facing several months of hard rehabilitation and not being able to earn money.
Injuries are daily fare and as safe as the Bank of England. In the lower divisions probably even more likely than in professional leagues like the Bundesliga or Premier League. Most likely because hobby kickers are not as athletic and can’t react as fast as professional athletes or simply come too late with their tacklings. Most of the times, the ball is already out of reach but the opponent isn’t. I’d like to say: ‘They are not trying to hurt you!’
On the other hand, you could assume that the brutality is increased when the level of competition increases. In the end, there can be a lot of money involved, even in fifth division football. Thus, motivation for the players might be higher to get every ball at all costs. The next rate for the Porsche Cayenne is due soon. You never know… After several weeks of consideration, I have yet to come to a conclusion for my dilemma. It’s just too much fun to kick a ball around with a couple of good friends. The excitement before a match, the pleasure when your team scores a goal, or simply the feeling that you have successfully completed a nice combination. Pros and cons balance each other.
You don’t need opponents to injure yourself
Here’s the catch: about half of all injuries in modern football happen without influence of an opponent! Muscular injuries of the thighs are leading the score boards, followed by ligament and capsule ruptures of the knees and ankles. Typical traumata that result from overstrain, insufficient mobility or extreme joint positions during landings and/or load changes.
Such injuries can almost every time be avoided. That is the reason why athletic training is constantly rising in popularity in professional sports. Other sports might be years ahead of football when it comes to modern training methods but with the amount of money to be made football is generating a rising demand for science, training methods, and well-educated athletic trainers. The athletes have to become more fit, more powerful, and – most of all – less injury prone. How you can achieve that is the topic of another blog post here at aerobis.com. We will have Tom Geitner, experienced athletic trainer and speaker, joining our team of FuncMoveExperts.
What can I do when I have strained a muscle?
In that case there is one basic rule: keep calm!
A strained muscle is basically just a protective measure of your body to prevent serious injuries. Before a muscle fiber tears, it starts to cramp up. Just like a muscle cramp the single fiber parts can no longer relax and elongate. This comes alongside pain because slight ruptures of single ‘sections’ of the fiber or the fascia hull can occur.
Back in the days, people swore by the R-I-C-E rule but that is seen as outdated today. For further information about this see Tutorial Thursday #12.
Way more effective against strains are light movement and supplementation with magnesium.
However, light movement doesn’t include stretching the muscle ‘into the pain’. So leave your sledgehammer at home and work your way slowly towards the spot where it starts to hurt. It is ok to feel a light pull but pain is counterproductive because the central nervous system will immediately initiate counter measures.The muscle will cramp up even more and become stiff. You could even tear a msucle.
Magnesium acts as a cofactor in this procedure to make the muscle fibers let go. It can be seen as the referee that tries to separate the two sweaty heavyweight boxers from a clinch.
The individual muscle filaments start to relax and the muscle can elongate again. Magnesium should be taken right before going to bed because it improves sleep and, thus, regeneration as a whole. See also Tutorial Thursday #18.
At the end of the day it comes down to this: patience is a virtue. We all want to get back into the game as soon as possible but a strain simply needs a long time to fully heal. If you don’t give it that time it will be back just like Arnold Schwarzenegger in his biggest role. Eventually it is getting annoying. ;)