As part of the duties of the youth football coach, it is imperative that the coach is well versed in ways of preventing the obvious injuries to his players and how to implement the first-aid procedures when needed [which i will go into details in my future articles], also not forgetting to mention that it is also the responsibility of the players to minimize injuries to themselves and other players around them. First-Aid is the provision of an emergency care given for an illness or injury before professional medical treatment arrives.
Injuries are inevitable in football, especially in youth football, whether it is just a minor or a serious injury. Many football injuries can come from overuse, lack of proper rest, poor conditioning, and lack of warm up or cool down.
Prevention, they say, is better than cure. To apply this in youth football, there are some steps that should be taken to prevent serious injuries to the players but before we have a look at these steps I will like to highlight some common injuries in youth football in no particular order.
Common Football Injuries
In all contact sports, there are many minor and serious injuries that can happen, more so in football, especially if reasonable care is not taken. With so many injuries to mention, I will only concentrate solely on the most common that the coach & coaching staff can administer before professional help arrives. For detailed professional remedy and treatments to all sports related injuries, please consult a specialist or your doctor so as to avoid more damage.
Hands and Arms – The types of injuries to the hands or arms vary in severity and usually result in pains, bruising, swelling and fractures (i.e. loss of the ability to move or use the joints) which can happen in the shape of sprains & strain dislocations and these are more common with goalkeepers than outfield players, since the goalkeepers have to stretch to catch the ball, dive to prevent goals or when they fall awkwardly.
Head and Face – Injuries to the head or face can cause concussion, cuts, chin damage, bleeding or loss of teeth resulting from banging of heads in a challenge for the ball in the air, a blow or elbow smash to the face, a kick to the head or face when a goalkeeper tries to prevent opposing player from scoring and when a player stoops low to head a ball.
Groin Pull – This (sometimes called groin strain/adductor) normally occur when the inner thigh muscles are stretched beyond limit and stress is applied to the muscles. Groin pull could also happen when jumping suddenly, landing awkwardly, changing directions, kicking, rapid acceleration or deceleration or twisting.
Muscles Cramps – Usually caused by involuntary & forceful contractions of the muscles due to excessive use of the muscles (partial local paralysis).The definite causes are yet to be known but insufficient stretching, exercising in the heat, some type of medicines, dehydration, low blood calcium & magnesium or low potassium are all part of stated causes.
Hamstring Pull – Hamstring is located at the back of the thigh. Hamstring strains can occur either during a collision between two players, running or forceful stretch of the leg muscles which can cause the muscle tissue to tear thereby affecting the player’s performance. It could be first, second or third degree.
Shin Splint – These are common in youth football and are a variety of pains that affect the front of the lower leg along the shin bone. The most common pain cause is inflammation of the periostium of the tibia and abnormal movement pattern including several errors in training like wrong footwear, running on hard surfaces and increasing training too quickly.
Calf Strain – A sharp pain commonly felt at the two back leg muscles (known as the Gastrocnemius and the Soleus) where they join the Achilles tendon. This type of injuries can occur from stretching the calf muscles beyond their limits thereby causing the calf muscle fibers to tear which could be mild, moderate or severe(rupture i.e. complete tear of the calf muscles).
Achilles Tendonitis(also known as tendinopathy) – This is the largest tendon in the human body that can withstand heavy forces and is located at the back of the ankle just above the heel. Pains in this area can either be acute or chronic which can be as a result of heavy landing, wear & tear, over-pronation, inadequate stretching, overuse and lack of flexibility in the calf muscles.
Ankle Sprain/ Fracture – Ankle injury can happen to any age group, the most common are sprains & fractures which could be damage to ligaments and/or bones including tear or strain of a tendon. A fracture is when there is a break in one or more of the bones whilst a sprain is damage to the ligaments sustained during over stretching that can cause a rapture of ligament or tear in the fibers. The causes of these types of injuries could range from sudden impact, landing awkwardly after an aerial challenge for the ball, twisting the ankle, tripping, walking to running on uneven surfaces.
Shoulder Dislocation – Shoulder dislocation occur usually when there is a fall on the shoulder thereby causing an extreme rotation of the upper arm bone to pop out of the socket, this can be very painful and result in swelling, weakness & dumbness of the arm.
Preventing football injuries requires discipline and commitment. As much as the footballer needs to train hard to achieve maximum level of fitness, they also must try to avoid injuring themselves and others around them. Even though research has shown that about 75% of football injuries are preventable, it also noted that without enough research, no one knows the definite preventative practices that are effective at avoiding or reducing the risk of football injuries that are experienced by football players, both youths and adults, hence the efforts of FIFA medical experts in a recent conference stating their drive to initiate, introduce and implement measures to reduce & prevent both contact and non-contact injuries in football and for this reason the following suggestions are just the general rules to apply in order to avoid and prevent injuries in youth football training or matches – you can read more about it here.
- Engage in proper and regular conditioning program of exercises to build & strengthen the muscles and the bones.
- Warm up and Stretching. Warm up & stretching exercises are essential for the muscles before participating in any football activities. This helps to increase the blood flow and oxygen to the muscles so as to withstand the rigours & mental demand of the game.
- Cool Down. The cooling down process is one that is often ignored by most youth football coaches, it is important to cool down because this has a longer term effect on injury prevention and it does help to gradually lower heart rate, help restore the muscles to their original condition and to circulate the blood & oxygen to the muscles.
- Wear appropriate footwear & protection. Always be sure to wear the necessary footwear (in relation to the playing surface & weather conditions), shin guards, gloves & shirt with padded elbows (goalkeepers), and teeth guards.
- Eat enough balanced diets. A nutritious diet is a balanced diet. Eating a balanced diet that contains carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins, minerals & fibre in proportionate measure will aid Healthy Eating needed for any footballer. Lack of proper balanced diet will surely inhibit recovery process from training sessions and make the player prone to injury.
Hydration. The fluid intake before, during and after is very important for recovery, rehydration and to prevent injury. For a footballer to perform at their very best they need to have enough fluid, most especially water as opposed to other drinks full of sugar & other chemicals.
Rest & Recovery. Allowing the body and mind to properly recover with adequate hours of sleep will help the player immensely and also help to avoid or prevent injury.
Prevention is precaution and it is very important to adhere to, though specific, a variety of conditioning programs that will alleviate the obvious common injuries mentioned above. If serious injury persistent with pain and discomfort should continue, it is time to visit a specialist for a professional assistance.
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