Most Common Football Injuries

Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on August 30, 2021

Football is a sport that many people enjoy playing, but it's not without risks. Luckily, common football injuries are easy to prevent with the proper techniques and safety equipment.

Because football training requires repetitive movements, it’s easy to overuse your muscles. Overuse happens when you use your body more than your physical limits allow. When you work your muscles, they sustain damage that requires time to heal. You may practice for too long over days, weeks, or months, providing your body with inadequate recovery time.‌

You can prevent overuse injuries in football by taking rest periods in between training and conditioning periods. Overuse injuries are the least common kind of injury for football players; you're more likely to sustain impact injuries while playing football because it's such a high-contact sport.

Helmets do a lot to protect football players from traumatic head injuries, but they can't prevent all damage. A direct hit to a player’s head can cause a sudden jerking motion that causes a concussion. There is a common misconception that the damage isn't severe enough to cause a concussion unless you pass out. That’s not true. Concussion signs to watch for include:

  • Headache
  • Confusion
  • Feeling dizz‌y
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Blurred vision‌‌

If a player shows signs of a concussion, they should stop playing immediately and seek medical treatment. A doctor can advise when it is OK for you to play football again following a concussion.

Physical impacts can cause your shoulder to dislocate or separate. A shoulder separation happens when you sprain the AC joint near your collarbone. A dislocation happens if the tissue in your shoulder socket tears. Shoulder injuries are especially common in players in the lineman position.

Tackling is a common cause of knee injuries. Knee injuries in football are most common in children. The knee has two ligaments, the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and the medial collateral ligament (MCL). These ligaments can tear, as can the meniscus tissue and cartilage in your knee joint.‌

Over time, knee injuries cause the early onset of arthritis. Many football players wear knee supports, but they are not proven to decrease your chance of a knee injury. In fact, many players feel like knee braces limit their range of motion. If a knee brace doesn’t allow you to move the way you need to, weigh the pros and cons of using one.

Football season begins in the summer when it's hot outside. Practicing for long periods of time outside can lead to heat injuries like exhaustion, heat stroke, and dehydration. Staying hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids is one way to prevent heat injuries in football.‌

Signs of heat-related injuries include cramping and feeling suddenly tired. Listen to your body and take rest breaks when you need them. Maintain a healthy diet during football season to ensure your body has the nutrients it needs to sustain your workouts. Heat injuries are serious, and ignoring the signs can lead to severe illness or death.

Football requires quick movements that can lead to ankle injuries like twists and sprains. The flat playing surface can also contribute to ankle injuries. This is why it's important to wear proper cleats that offer grip when running.

Resting. You should take rest breaks during and between practices. Don’t push your body too far by adding in too many additional workouts between practices.‌

Hydrate. Drinking fluids doesn’t just help prevent heat injuries. Staying hydrated also ensures your muscles and other tissue have enough moisture to cushion impacts. When you don’t drink enough water, you may add strain to your muscles, ligaments, and tendons that limit your range of motion.‌

Techniques. Understand the right and wrong ways to perform moves like tackling. When you understand how to tackle correctly, you protect yourself from unnecessary injury. For example, players should never tackle headfirst by spearing another player with their helmet.‌

Listen to your body. It’s not enough to know the signs of heat injuries and concussions. You have to pay attention to your body and know when you’re pushing too far. Don’t be afraid to speak up and bring attention to a concern before it becomes a severe injury.‌

Concussion guidelines. The United States Congress passed a concussion bill designed to protect youth who play football from head injuries. The act requires coaches to remove players if they suspect a concussion injury during a football game or practice. It’s always better to be safe than sorry.

Show Sources


Children’s Hospital Colorado: “Football.” 

Ortho Kids: “Football Injuries.”

University of Washington Medicine: “Common Sports Injuries and Sports Injury Prevention Tips.”

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