Common Football Injuries and How They’re Treated

two football players carrying their injured teammate between them

Which Sports Injuries Require a Sports Medicine Doctor?

Considering the storied legacy and recent success of the Kansas City team, it’s safe to say that the Midwest is the new official epicenter of football. Battles on the gridiron remain one of the most significant draws in sports, and summertime marks the period where players kick off preseason training and conditioning – including those playing at the high school level.

If you’re a parent of a player, the thought of a football injury has probably crossed your mind. The amount of contact that occurs during a typical game or practice makes football-related sports injuries hard to avoid. Depending on the severity, a football injury can sideline a player for as little as a couple weeks or as much as several months.

To shed some additional light on this, we’re breaking down the most common football injuries we treat at Mid-America Orthopedics. Afterward, we’ll illustrate the main benefits of working with athletic trainers and sports medicine doctors.

Sprains and Strains

Typically occurring in the hamstring or ankle, sprains and strains are among the most common football injuries. A strain is when the muscles and tendons become stretched or torn, whereas a sprain is an injury to the ligaments. Players affected by a strain or sprain may experience symptoms like:

  • Pain and swelling in the affected area
  • Difficulty using the ankle or hamstring
  • Inability to bear weight
  • Redness, bruising, or warmth in the affected area

The R.I.C.E. method is typically used to treat a sprain or strain. R.I.C.E. stands for rest, ice, compression, and elevation. Most minor strains and sprains can be treated at home. However, severe cases may require the use of a splint, crutches, or wheelchair. Additionally, physical therapy may be required to restrengthen the injured tendons, muscles, and ligaments after an injury has healed.

If the R.I.C.E. method doesn’t yield improvement within the first few days, make an appointment with an orthopedic or sports medicine doctor. Medical providers can order an MRI, which is an imaging technology used to visualize and measure the damage to muscles, tendons, and ligaments.

Knee Injury

The knee is a high-risk area for a football injury due to the on-field motions and actions players must make. For example, ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) injuries are quite common among wide receivers and running backs because of how they run routes and evade defenders. Making a sudden change in direction or twisting movements can cause the ACL to tear or rupture. The act of jumping, landing, and pivoting also strains the ACL.

The meniscus is another high-risk piece of cartilage located in the knee. When jumping or running, the meniscus acts as a shock absorber between the tibia and the femur. A torn meniscus typically occurs when a player who is bearing weight on a single leg suddenly twists hard on it.

The common symptoms of a knee injury include:

  • Inability to bear weight
  • Redness and swelling
  • Decreased range of motion
  • Inability to straighten the knee
  • Crunching or popping noises

Because the knee is susceptible to a variety of different football injuries, the best course of action is to reach out to an orthopedic or sports medicine doctor to examine it. They will likely order X-rays or an MRI to see which parts of the knee are injured. Once the doctor has made a diagnosis, they will provide a treatment plan, which may include arthroscopic surgery for more severe cases.

Bone Fracture

Fractures are another common type of football injury that occur when significant force is applied to a bone. Hitting, of course, causes many bone fractures, but landing or falling too hard may also cause them.

Overuse of a certain area of the body can weaken the muscles around the bone, leading to stress fractures. Although stress fractures are tiny compared to regular bone fractures, football players should not attempt to “tough it out” and play on them.

The symptoms of a bone fracture include:

  • Extreme and sudden pain
  • Inability to bear weight
  • Reduced function and mobility
  • Swelling and deformity around the affected area

Bone fractures require immediate medical attention. Physicians will typically order an X-ray, MRI, or CT scan to diagnose the issue. The results of those tests enable them to determine what type of bone fracture it is and the severity of it. From there, the physician will provide a treatment plan, which may include using a splint or cast on the area, prescribing pain medication, or recommending surgery to return the bones back to their proper place.

As far as sports injuries are concerned, the recovery time for a bone fracture is lengthy. Fractures are typically viewed as a season-ending injury because bones take months to properly heal.

The Advantage of Working with Athletic Trainers

Playing football takes a toll on the body. Staying healthy for the duration of a season is one of the biggest challenges that athletes face, which is why many football players work with athletic trainers.

Mid-America Orthopedics has some of the best athletic trainers in the Wichita area who specialize in preventing injuries, sports injury care, and rehabilitation. Athletic training provides your high school athlete with an extra level of preparation that helps protect them against common football injuries.

When to Contact an Orthopedic Doctor About a Football Injury

Most sports injuries are initially treated by an athletic trainer or team doctor. They can typically provide a preliminary diagnosis of the area without the use of special equipment; however, severe football injuries should be properly examined by a sports medicine doctor. In addition to being well versed in diagnosing a variety of sports injuries, sports medicine doctors provide the most effective treatment plans, including:

Should your athlete’s condition require surgery, they will be internally referred to one of our experienced orthopedic surgeons at Mid-America Orthopedics. Our surgeons specialize in arthroscopic surgery, which is minimally invasive and has a shorter recovery time when compared to open surgery.

If you’re the parent of an athlete who has incurred a football injury, call us at to speak with our scheduling department to make an appointment.