We decided to speak to an expert in sports medicine to understand what types of injuries professional footballers face and how they are best treated. Dr Ralph Rogers, former First Team Doctor to Chelsea FC and currently Medical Adviser to the NBA (and a lead clinician at Living Room Health) is an authority on such matters. Read on to find out the difference between injury and pain, why potential concussion can be so dangerous and why most footballers are never 100% fit.
What are the most common injuries in football and is the treatment pathway different for professional footballers?
Ankles, knees, hamstrings.
The treatment pathway shouldn’t be different to anybody else. Depending on the injury, you have conservative treatment or surgery and then the rehabilitation. The only real difference is that as a professional footballer, you’re having rehabilitation 5 or 6 times a week. It’s the rehabilitation that’s most important for me. Cutting edge treatments are important of course and there are a lot of people that can perform these treatments but it is the rehabilitation that is seriously important – you miss out on the rehabilitation, you miss out on proprioception, (which is the body’s awareness in space) strengthening in muscles around the joint, range of movement and so on. For example if you have a cruciate ligament repair of your knee, and you don’t do the proper rehab, you’ll end up with a stiff, weak knee. It’s as simple as that.
If you have an ACL tear and you have an operation, how long can rehabilitation take before you’re back on the field?
Six to seven months though it varies. Interestingly, some footballers that don’t want to have an ACL repair can get along very nicely without being operated on. If you strengthen the hamstrings and quadriceps around the joint, and you are someone who has very good proprioception, you can get away with not having an operation. There are professional footballers out there, for sure, that have ACL tears that are playing without having it surgically repaired.
Jack Grealish has said he’s never 100% fit? Is there a danger that players are being pressured into playing when they should be resting or having an operation?
There’s a difference between playing hurt and playing injured. Sometimes you have to learn how to play hurt. Playing when you are injured is something different – in that situation you are at risk of worsening the injury. In professional sports in general, you have to learn how to play hurt, nobody out there is 100% pain free. In my opinion having the mental strength to play when you’re in pain is one of the keys to being a successful sportsman.
Do you think they need to be much more tighter with the protocols around concussion?
This is an important question. If a player has a head injury, you bring them off. To be honest, it’s a very basic part of being a team physician. The referee should also be aware. If a player is not right from a head injury they should come off immediately because it’s a real danger to the player. Players must be assessed and go through a standard concussion protocol. If a player does not go through the proper protocol and has a second concussion (hours, days or even weeks after the first concussion) then he or she could suffer what is called a second impact syndrome where the brain swells. In this instance, you’re talking about a potential fatality.
If you are suffering from a sporting injury that’s stopping you live an active life, you can speak to one of our consultants by completing our contact form.