Why Football Injuries are part of an athlete’s journey
The big day is finally here – Super Bowl Sunday. Our very own Los Angeles Rams are playing the mighty New England Patriots in Atlanta #SuperBowlLIII. Millions of Americans and people around the world will gather around their televisions to watch the biggest sporting spectacle of the year.
I will be watching as well. Over the years, I have worked with many Football players in my practice. Every August we run clinics and give free medical support to many High School Football Teams in our area. It’s my favorite time of the year. I love helping injured players getting back to the game they love so much.
Unfortunately Football comes with injuries. It’s just a fact. Football injuries are part of an athlete’s journey. It’s not just the most recent discussions about brain injuries that worry all of us who love the sport, there is an array of other football injuries that are part of my daily life as an orthopedic surgeon.
Orthopedic football injuries include ACL injuries, meniscus tears and AC (shoulder) joint injuries. Those are the most common. The good news: We can treat all of them. I wanted to break some of those football injuries down for you, so when you watch the game and hear about injuries on the field, you know exactly what they are talking about. It also helps to know the symptoms of a football injury, so you get an idea of what is going on.
1. Meniscus Tears (Knee)
Meniscus tears are a common knee injury. We treat it all the time. Football players and other contact sport athletes are at a higher risk for meniscus tears. A meniscus tear is common after a traumatic injury to the area, when the knee is bent and twisted. The menisci can tear in different ways and are classified by their appearance and location. There are two menisci in each knee, one at the outside and one at the inside of the knee. These “C-shaped” cartilage disks help to support and stabilize the joint. The symptoms of a torn meniscus are:
• Pain and swelling
• Catching or locking
• The affected knee catching or “locking”
• Loss of range of motion
How do we treat it? – First we check X-Rays and order an MRI to get a visual map of your knee. Our treatment of a meniscus tear will depend on the type of tear, the location of the tear, and the size of the tear. Conservative treatment may be the first step but if the symptoms continue, arthroscopic surgery may be needed to resolve the problem. After surgery, rehabilitation will be crucial for restoring mobility and strength. More GOOD NEWS: Most of our patients will be able to return to their pre-injury level. It is, however, key to follow a good rehabilitation plan. Our on site training facility offers the best trainers in SoCal.
2. ACL Injuries (Knee)
An Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) injury is another common knee injury. There are four main ligaments in your knee that help to keep the knee stable and control the movement of the knee, the ACL is one of them. The ACL is located behind the patella (kneecap) and connects the tibia to the femur. The ACL may be torn or sprained. Those who play sports like football and soccer are more susceptible to ACL injuries. If you have suffered from a torn ACL then you join the ranks of Pro-Football Players Tom Brady, Joe Thomas, and Adrian Peterson. And look where Brady is this Sunday …
This is a tricky injury. Only about 30 percent of these football injuries result from direct contact. Most of them happen when the athlete is cutting in, pivots or sidesteps. An awkward landing can cause an ACL injury as well. The symptoms are typically:
– A “popping” noise at the time of injury
– The affected knee giving out
– Pain and swelling
– Loss of range of motion
– Pain while walking or putting weight on the knee
How do we treat it? We can determine an ACL injury through physical examination. We also use MSK Ultrasound and MRI. As all injuries, the treatment plan for an ACL injury will depend of the severity of the injury- whether it is a sprain or tear. If it’s a tear, surgery will most likely be the recommended plan of care. Those who are elderly or may not live an active lifestyle may not require surgery but must understand that their ACL tear will not heal. In the case of those who do not have surgery, physical therapy will most likely be recommended. For most people, surgery is the suggested course of action. The ACL is reconstructed through arthroscopic surgery. Again, surgery is followed by physical therapy which will focus on regaining full joint motion and then strengthening the athlete for return to their sport. Check out our Instagram Account (#doctorfeder) to see videos of our training facility in Manhattan Beach
3. AC Joint Injury (Shoulder)
Football injuries are not all knee injuries. The shoulder is another delicate part of the body that gets hurt quite often. The AC joint is a common site for a football injury. The AC joint or is where the shoulder blade meets the collar bone. If the bones making up the AC joint are injured, it is considered an AC separation, where as if the upper arm (humerus) pops out of the shoulder socket, it is a dislocated shoulder. When a football player is tackled, the direct impact or landing on the outside of the shoulder can result in an AC joint injury. Symptoms of an AC joint separation are:
• Pain at the top of the shoulder that is worse with overhead movements
• Deformity or bump over the top of the shoulder
• Limited shoulder mobility
• Bruising or swelling
How do we treat it? – We will assess the severity of the injury through physical examination and X-rays. Most AC separations can be effectively managed without the need for surgery. Conservative treatment such as rest, ice and anti-inflammatory medication is often enough to manage the pain and physical therapy may be recommended to help restore function. Sometimes when there is too large of a separation, we might have to operate. But don’t worry, you are in good hands!
I hope this gives you a bit of an inside about football injuries. It’s always good to know what you are dealing with when you get hurt out on the field. But that shouldn’t take away the joy of watching a great games this Sunday with many friends and family. Go #SuperBowlLIII