Fans around the world may not be the ones on the pitch and taking part in what is arguably the most exciting event every four years, but World Cup 2018 is upon us and we are all involved in some way or another. Most of us kick back and watch the games unfold on the big screen while others – the lucky ones – have got hold of some tickets to watch their home country play in the thick of the action in Russia. The world is watching the players move seamlessly around the pitch, aiming for glory for their country and the pressure they are under to train and perform starts weeks in advance of the fixtured games. The players spend their lives training for matches, and if you are a keen football player then you’re going to be well aware of the types of sports injuries that are possible for your favourite players as they push themselves to be the best.
Sadly, there is no one fixed way for your favourites to eliminate the possibility of injury, except sitting out and on the bench. And no one wants to do that. Being a part of the World Cup is something that you tell your grandchildren’s children if you’re around to do it, so really, it’s about avoiding it as best they can. Players in the World Cup are professional; they’ve got training sessions most days every week that are conditioning their bodies into an athletic state to hopefully avoid any injuries occurring. Dealing with an injury is not the place to cut corners, which the professionals know about, and the most common types of injuries that you may see during this year’s competition are as follows:
- Hamstring pulls, strains and tears
- Strains to the groin
- ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) injury and other knee twisting injuries
- Ankle sprains
- Injuries in the feet; Achilles and metatarsal
While professional players will have on-hand medical staff and physiotherapists for injuries during a game, they’ll also have the help away from the public matches when injuries that start in the hips or knees radiate to the back. A lot can be said for injuries to the spine caused by the constant pressure on running and training, and spine surgery isn’t something to feel less than serious about. It’s important that professional players keep a close eye on the fall out from any injury gained whilst playing football, purely because of how quickly things can change. Some players are unlucky enough to suffer things like concussion and hernia as a result of their gameplay, but it’s not as common as the five injuries that we’ve listed above. So, once these multi-million-dollar players are injured, how do they prevent it from happening again?
The best thing to understand for anyone playing football in their spare time is that the chances of even gaining an injury in the first place can be pushed right down by following a few simple sporting rules. These are:
- Always get fitted for the right shoes. You won’t see the professional footballers in shoes that aren’t professionally fitted to the right arch, height and width of their feet. Feet take an awful lot of impact when playing football, so it is so important to be vigilant when you buy your football boots.
- You would only notice this if you’re watching really closely, but all footballers who are playing are wearing shin pads and protection around their ankles. The socks that they train in are keeping these in place, and while it can feel a little warm to play in, it’s worth it when a tackle can decide if you skin your ankles or not!
- One of the biggest ways to prevent injury while playing football is to correctly warm-up. It may be tempting to dash out onto the pitch and join in the fun, but no professional player does this. Even the subs during the game can be seen keeping warm and limber on the edge of the pitch – just in case they are called to step-up and into place!
When you – and the professionals, of course – are preparing your body for a football match, there are some things that should be focused on more than others. The first is proprioception and balance, and the second is how flexible you are. Not many outside the athletic field have heard of proprioception, but it refers to how the body senses movement. When you’re on a football pitch, you need to be able to be intuitive about the location of your fellow players, but even more so you need to know what your own limbs are doing. The more focused on proprioception you are, the better your body will respond to you and avoid you being a crumpled heap on the floor. The professionals engage in SAQ training to hone this skill, and this covers speed, agility and quickness. For you at home, you could choose to purchase a wobble cushion, which can help you to really improve your balance before you get on the pitch. Then, you have to focus on your flexibility. Simple, regular stretches throughout the work day can keep your body fluid and flexible, ready to train properly for matches.
The World Cup this year is already dogged with reports of players that cannot play due to injury. For some people, the standard ways to fix and allow an injury to heal are not easy because what you need is time and patience to get well again. If you are the sort of person who doesn’t want to hang around and wait to get back out there, you’re going to be sorely disappointed. Choosing not to wait for an injury to heal is not the way to go, otherwise you could cause more damage that is irreversible and will mean football is off the cards for you forever. Plenty of footballers over the years have had to walk away from the game due to injury; let’s hope no more do over the course of the 2018 World Cup.