Football is one of the most popular sports in the world. There is estimated to be around 220 million recreational players and over 100,000 registered professional players worldwide. Like any sport, it presents several injury risks for those who play regularly.
Knee injuries, particularly to the meniscus, are a real threat to players. In some cases, a knee injury could even end a player’s career. Here, we’ll look at football knee injuries and the potential treatment options available.
What are common football knee injuries?
The majority of injuries footballers develop occur within the knee. The three main types of football knee injuries include:
- Meniscus tear
- ACL tear
- MCL sprain
The meniscus is a C-shaped piece of cartilage in the knee, that works as a shock absorber. In football, players are susceptible to tears within the Meniscus, due to constant twisting of the knee. Meniscus tears tend not to be acute which means sudden, so often the individual will continue playing at the time of the injury. Symptoms of swelling and stiffness will usually occur a few days after and then gradually come and go over time. Eventually, however, this can lead to intense pain, stiffness, and swelling that prevents you playing. If the tear is severe, it may require surgery to fix.
Often a meniscus tear occurs in combination with other injuries to the ACL, medial and lateral ligaments.
An ACL (Anterior Cruciate Ligament) tear typically occurs when the ACL ligament is stretched too far. Its job is to keep the cartilage and bones of the knee together. Footballers can develop either a partial or a complete tear. When this type of injury occurs, a popping sound will often be heard. Players will also experience weakness in the knee and immediate swelling.
The Medial Collateral Ligament (MCL) is located on the inside of the knee. It connects the lower leg bone to the thigh bone. In football, the MCL can tear when the outside of the knee is struck. It can also develop over time due to repetitive sudden twisting movements.
Can footballers return to the sport after a knee injury?
Whether a footballer can return to sport after a knee injury depends upon several factors. The type and severity of the injury will play a large role. Whether any complications develop will also determine the likelihood of return to play.
With meniscus tears, players treated with a meniscectomy typically return to sport within one to three months. However, players treated with a Meniscus repair can expect to wait four to six months before they can return to sport.
If the player is suffering with an ACL tear, the recovery can be a longer. If a surgical repair is required, players can expect to be out of sport for many months. There are several risks of returning to sport too early, so players do need to be careful and follow a comprehensive rehab programme.
Seeking treatment for football knee injuries
While knee injuries can set footballers back, they don’t necessarily mean an end to their career. Seeking treatment as early as possible will help to shorten the time needed to be spent away from the pitch. Book a consultation with sports injury specialist Mr Jonathan Webb to discover which approach is right for you.