football run

Football is a high-contact and high-energy sport. The repetitive nature and high impact of the sport can leave players sidelined with a variety of different injuries. If you yourself play football or if you have a child who plays football, it’s important to know how to recognize some of the injuries that may occur while playing and how to treat them to minimize lasting damage before seeing a medical professional.

Aaron Mares, MD, a primary care sports medicine physician at UPMC Sports Medicine and co-head team physician for the University of Pittsburgh football team, identified some of the most common injuries sustained in football. These include:

common football injuries

Ankle Injuries

Running, jumping, and turning repeatedly for the length of a football game or practice can injure the ankle, causing sprains, strains, tears, and fractures. These injuries can keep players off the field for the length of recovery. Symptoms of ankle injuries may include:

  • Pain
  • Swelling
  • Bruising
  • Tenderness and warmth to the touch
  • Difficulty bearing weight and pain throughout the foot and ankle


Each season, estimates suggest that 10-19 percent of athletes playing contact sports will suffer a concussion. These head injuries occur following blows or hits to the head and/or body that cause the brain to shake inside the skull. There are over 20 symptoms of concussion some people might experience, with the most common being:

  • Headache
  • Confusion
  • Fogginess
  • Memory loss
  • Dizziness
  • Balance problems

Knee Injuries

Pivoting on the field to catch the ball, giving or receiving a tackle, or even a simple change of direction, exerts significant pressure and strain on the knee. These injuries can pack a punch to football players because the knee works to maintain the body’s balance. Knee sprains, ligament tears, cartilage injury, and tendonitis are common examples. Symptoms of a knee injury include:

  • Pain
  • Swelling
  • Instability
  • Difficulty put weight on the leg

Shoulder Injuries

The hitting, pushing and throwing motions of football create strain in the shoulders. These injuries can affect the cartilage, bone, ligaments, and muscles wrapped up in our shoulders. Falls, hits, and pressure can cause shoulder separations, sprains, strains, cartilage damage, fractures, and even dislocations. Symptoms of a shoulder injury typically include:

  • Pain
  • Weakness
  • Difficultly lifting or rotating the arm
  • Popping or catching
  • Instability

Football Injury Prevention

To prevent injuries on the field, wear the proper equipment and a good pair of shoes to support your movements.

Prepare by conditioning yourself and getting in shape before the season starts. Focus on maintaining and increasing flexibility, aerobic activities, strength exercises, and endurance drills.

Hydrate yourself before, during, and after games, especially when returning to the sport after a hiatus. Leading up to game day, you should eat foods high in protein, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals to give you the energy you will need to make it past halftime.

If you sustain any injuries on the football field, seek medical treatment or evaluation immediately. Follow the care instructions of your doctor, athletic trainer, or physical therapist. The RICE Method (Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation) can help treat many sports-related injuries. Don’t fumble your health!

To learn more about UPMC Sports Medicine, or to schedule an appointment, visit the UPMC Sports Medicine website or call 1-855-93-SPORT (77678).