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Aussie Rules Football injuries

Australian Rules football is a demanding sport that calls for strength, flexibility, endurance and skill. Football players generally take good care of their bodies, but football is a high-impact, contact sport and despite the athlete's care, injuries will occur. Some common football injuries are:

Medial collateral ligament rupture

This is a rupture to the ligament that joins the inner surfaces of the thighbone (femur) to the shinbone (tibia). This ligament can be injured by sudden force being applied to the outside of the knee. Symptoms range from mild tenderness (grade 1 sprain) to more moderate knee pain, swelling and laxity in the joint (grade 2), to significant joint laxity, swelling and knee pain (grade 3). Although sometimes when a grade 3 injury is sustained, because there is a complete tear of the ligament, the pain may not be as bad as a grade 2 sprain where most but not all fibres are torn.

Damage to the ligament should be taken seriously as the stability of the knee is compromised. The knee may feel wobbly as if it is 'giving way'. The player should stop and rest and use the RICE method (Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation) and seek physiotherapy analysis and treatment. Surgery may be necessary in the most serious cases.

ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) rupture

The ACL is one of the more important ligaments as it helps to stabilise the knee. ACL ruptures occur when the knee is twisted during a sudden change in direction, landing awkwardly from a jump or suddenly coming to a stop from running. This type of injury causes knee pain, swelling, instability and difficulty walking. A loud pop may be heard at the time of injury. If this happens, the athlete should stop play immediately, apply the RICE formula (Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation), and seek medical attention as soon as possible. Rehabilitation with physiotherapy is always needed to help the athlete return to football.

Ankle sprain

This is a very common football injury which occurs when the ankle turns over, causing the sole of the foot to turn inward. Damage is usually to the ligaments on the outside of the ankle. Symptoms are ankle pain, swelling, stiffness, bruising and sometimes an inability to bear weight. Using the RICE formula, followed by physiotherapy is the best form of treatment.

Footballers' ankle

Previous ankle injuries where the ankle has been overstretched or bent can lead to formation of bony growths at the front of the ankle where the joint capsule attaches. Inflammation leads to ankle pain and tenderness when the ankle is pressed. There may also be pain when kicking a ball and a bony lump may be felt at the front of the ankle. Sometimes wearing a support may be helpful. The athlete should see a physiotherapist who will advise on appropriate exercises and treat the symptoms. Larger bony growths may require surgery which is then followed by physiotherapy.

Metatarsal stress fractures

This football injury results from overuse and overtraining with insufficient rest in between. With a stress fracture there is gradual onset of pain and some swelling. In the case of an acute fracture there will be acute foot pain from either having something dropped on the foot or having the foot stamped on. Other symptoms are rapid swelling, inability to bear weight and deformity of the foot. The athlete should rest and seek medical attention. A cast may be fitted on the foot to allow it to heal, which may take up to six weeks. When the cast is removed, physiotherapy may begin to allow for a gradual return to football.

Proper footwear and protective gear can help prevent football injuries. Proper warm up and cool down are also essential. If you are injured while playing football, please come in and see us at Coastal Physiotherapy Clinic. We can help.


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