It’s not uncommon for a player of a contact sports like Football to sustain injuries more often than their counterparts in other non-contact sports.
These injuries can be broadly of two types:
1. Acute Injuries like fracture of a limb, Hamstring injury
2. Chronic injuries like stress fractures
In regional terms and mechanism of injuries, they can be: Strains/sprains, Joint injuries like ACL rupture/dislocations, Muscle injuries like Hamstring pull, Bony injuries like fractures and there can be other events totally out of the blue like life-threatening cardiac events.
Most common footballing injuries are:
- hamstring injuries,
- knee cartilage tears,
- ACL injuries
- and fractures of the small bones of the feet.
Most football injuries are caused by trauma, such as collision with an opponent, landing awkwardly from a jump. Interestingly, many researches indicate that almost a quarter of these injuries are due to overuse and develop over a period of time. With today’s high paced, ultra-competitive matches coupled with less recovery time owing to sheer number of games in a season, chronic injuries are on the rise. Statistics show 9-35 cases of injuries per 1000 hours of football in adults compared to 0.5-13 per 1000 hrs in adolescents. This goes to show that players tend to get more injuries with repeated wear and tear.
However, excessive training and physical stress young trainees undergo before their biological maturity could be more harmful in the long run. It may not be functionally detrimental in day to day life but could severely impact top professional athletes where the line between genius and good is very thin.
Though it’s not a direct sport injury but cases like that of Fabrice Muamba are also on the rise. Even with such stringent screening and high standards of health check-ups in top leagues for professional athletes, such incidents are occurring. Science is only as good as is known to us. The health professionals present at White Hart Lane on that fateful day must be congratulated for the work they did but deep down they do know how lucky they were. All one can do in such situations is to do their best. On that day their best effort was good enough.
Some of the headlines grabbing injuries have been Beckham's metatarsal injury just before 2002 world cup, and Rooney's before 2006 world cup. These high profile injuries in fact made 'metatarsal injury' a very common term. The horrific fractures suffered by Djibril Cisse, and the one Hatem Ben Arfa suffered early in his Newcastle career are also hit youtube videos.
Being a student of Neuroscience, I am particularly more interested in Head and Spine injuries. Two of the high profile incidents that come to my mind regarding such injuries are the ones suffered by Petr Cech and Cristian Chivu.
Cech received a horrible head injury in October 2006 when he collided with Stephen Hunt when Chelsea were playing Reading. He was immediately transferred to a hospital, and operated after scans. Chivu received his injury in January of 2010 when Inter Milan were playing with Chievo. He too had to be operated immediately. Both of them had suffered depressed fracture of their skull with undelying hematoma.
These are the types of injuries that can jeopardize a player’s life not just their career. Had the fractured bone fragment gone a little deeper than it did in either case, or had the brain suffered more contusion than it did, those players could have been anywhere from losing the function of their arm or speech to coma or even death.
Been there, seen that, done that - it only makes one appreciate the massive tasks that the health care providers face. Most of the time, saving the life is a priority.
Fortunately, with the swift action of all concerned and the highest level of medical care that those players received immediately and during their rehabilitation period, they could return back to playing football at the highest professional level. Petr Cech has since been wearing a protective head gear which has been his trademark. Cristian Chivu also wears head gear, but less frequently. If you are vigilant enough, you can even see a very big ‘?’-mark shaped scar on the right side of head of Chivu, which is the surgical incisional scar.
Injuries are parts and parcel of the game. But many of these are preventable, mostly treatable but overall a lot of them are avoidable.