In case you hadn’t noticed, the football season here in the UK is well underway. Football is played year-round by amateurs, whether that be in school, at training for a club, or just a kick about in the park with friends or the kids. The fact that the Premier League is now being shown each week will no doubt spur increased numbers of people young and old, to get out and try and curl one in the top bin, like their idol!
It’s important to avoid injury, and this can be achieved by following these key pointers:
Start Out Gradually
You may well have played for the county when you were at school, but if you haven’t been playing regularly for a while and your body is not in tune with the sport you’re playing, in this case, football, then a sound piece of advice to take on board is to start gradually.
If you’re playing for a team, don’t go in all guns blazing, just ease yourself in; maybe play one half, or come off after 60 minutes. The same goes for if you’re having a kick around with the children – there’s nothing more embarrassing than pulling a hamstring when you’re having a bit of fun!
Essentially, all you need to remember to do is to make measured steps.
Warming Ups and Cool Downs
We refer to this in nearly every injury guide we’ve ever written, and football is no different. Warm muscles stretch much better than cold muscles. Ligaments and tendons are much more likely to tear when the muscles are cold and inflexible. Therefore, it’s essential to warm up before playing, so incorporate some dynamic stretches after having a five-minute jog to get the blood pumping. Football requires a lot of quick, sharp movements and your muscles will be asked to perform in ways they don’t usually in day to day life, so it’s important to prepare your body for what’s to come.
- Five to 10 minutes of gentle movement, gradually increasing in pace
- Five to 10 minutes of dynamic stretching
Once you’ve played, it’s important to cool down so that your body can return to its normal state. Static stretching is what’s needed at this point. Start at the top of your body, and work your way down so that you don’t miss a muscle group out – you’d be surprised what will ache the following day! Look to hold your stretch for 20-30 seconds and remember to take some nice deep breaths as you’re doing them. The second day DOMS can creep in no matter how good your cool down was, but it’ll be less intense if you do what’s best for you. If you have a certain area that’s suffering and you want to help speed up recovery, you can apply some sprain pain relief, which will help to alleviate an issue.
Focus on Footwear
Wearing the appropriate footwear is important. Forget what those stuck in their ways say about: “Back in my day…”. There’s a reason that footwear is made to cater for specific sports, and it’s not just a money-making exercise; they are designed with the activity in mind and what is required to prevent injury, perform in your chosen sport, and also, to give you comfort.
They don’t have to be the most expensive, nor do they need to be the most outlandish, but when footwear is being addressed, it’s vital that you get what’s best for you and your sport. If you bear this in mind, you’ll stay injury-free for longer and get to enjoy being active for longer!
Approach an Injury in The Right Way
You can take all the points we’ve touched on into account, but sometimes injuries will occur, regardless. A prime example was Usain Bolt at this year’s World Athletics Championships when he pulled up injured. It matters not what your level is, whether you’re at the top of the game or an absolute beginner, injuries happen. So, the first thing to prioritise if you do get injured is damage limitation.
The usual course of events for varying levels of injuries are:
- The feeling of slight pain
- The pain recurs, and may even be felt after exercising, but is not bad enough to prevent playing again
- The pain is now bad enough to interfere with playing or training, but you can still play if rest is incorporated
- The pain is so bad that training and playing matches are out of the question
The point at which you should look into an injury and consider treatment is at stage number one. If you are playing or training and feel any knock or strain, you should stop doing any exercise that causes pain; you should also get a check-up, just in case (this isn’t always necessary, but advised).
If a certain amount of time is required whereby you need to stop playing football, that doesn’t mean that you have to stop exercise completely. There will be a variety of other exercises that you can incorporate to help your strength and conditioning. This means that it’s not always about working the big muscles, and more about concentrating on the smaller ones. You don’t have to be pumping and growling with the big weights in the gym, and more often than not, the more slow, concise and measured exercises are, the far more beneficial.
It is as important to maintain morale and self-confidence to intertwine with your maintained level of fitness, and by utilising facilities at leisure centres and gyms, etc., it is always possible to find some suitable exercise to get you back on the pitch in no time.
Hopefully, these pointers have given you some interesting and resourceful insight that you can use and adopt so that you can stay fit and healthy while playing football. If you’ve found any particularly helpful, why not let us know on our social media channels?