American football is one of the most popular sports in the United States. It is also the sport with the highest injury rate for athletes. According to Statista, an estimated 5.2 million people ages 6 and over have played tackle football. Those numbers have steadily declined since 2006, with less and less people playing tackle football. This can be due to the high risk for injury while playing the sport. Learn about some of the common injuries associated with playing football, and treatment options that can help.

What are the most common football injuries?

  • Concussions: Concussions are the most common injury in the sport of football. Each year, over 40,000 high school football players suffer from a concussion due to the sport. A concussion is a type of traumatic brain injury—or TBI—caused by a hit, bump, or blow to the head or body that causes the head and brain to move rapidly back and forth. Symptoms may include headache, confusion, lack of coordination, memory loss, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, ringing in the ears, sleepiness, and excessive fatigue.

  • Ankle Sprains and Strains: Ankle injuries are also a very common injury due to the cutting motion and change of direction that many players do regularly. Ankle sprains and strains to tendons and ligaments are usually graded as mild, moderate, or severe. The worst cases could require approximately 4 months of recovery time before returning to normal activity.

  • Hamstring Strains and Strains: Hamstring injuries are very common with the sudden start and stop nature of the sport. There are 3 grades used to classify hamstring strains: Grade I: mild tears of muscle fibers (2-3 weeks recovery), Grade II: moderate tear of the muscle fibers (3-6 weeks recovery), Grade III: complete tear of the muscle, months of recovery, possible surgery.

  • Knee Injuries: Knee injuries can be caused when there is too much strain on the knee joint. The knee may twist or turn in a way that can cause knee pain or injury. Direct impact from other players is also one of the main causes of knee injuries. Some of the most common are: Anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury, posterior cruciate ligament (PCL) injury, medial collateral ligament (MCL) injury, bursitis, tendonitis, dislocated kneecap (patella), and meniscus tears.

  • Shoulder Injuries: Many offensive and defensive lineman are more susceptible to shoulder injuries due to the demands of their position. Other players may injure their shoulders if they hit, or are hit by another player. Some common shoulder injuries are: dislocation, rotator cuff strain or tear and broken clavicle. 

Types of Treatments:

  • RICE: Minor injuries can be improved by using the RICE method. RICE stands for Rest, Ice, Compress, Elevate. This is important to do in the 48-72 hours after the injury occurs. It can help reduce inflammation, pain and give the injured area time to recover.

  • Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Medications: Over the counter pain medications like ibuprofen can help lessen injury related pain and will also help reduce inflammation.

  • Physical Therapy: A Physical Therapist can help you learn about the severity of your injury and take you step-by-step to help speed up the healing process with a variety of treatment options. Some treatment options for football-related injuries include: therapeutic exercise, manual therapy, electrical-stimulation (e-stim), ultrasound, dry needling, kinesiotaping, cupping, and more!

  • Surgery: Physical therapy will not be able to help with all injuries right away, sometimes surgery is the only option. Serious football injuries, such as a ruptured Achilles, broken bones, a torn rotator cuff, knee ligament tears, and others might have to be surgically repaired in order for a full recovery to be made.

If you or your child has experienced an injury while playing football, schedule an appointment with one of our Certified Sports Specialists. We offer free sports injury screens at our clinics and also accept nearly all major insurances.