common football injuries

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 play football or have a child who plays football, it’s important to be able to recognize the most common football injuries and know how to treat them right away to minimize lasting damage before seeing a medical professional.

Aaron Mares, MD, primary care sports medicine physician, UPMC Sports Medicine, identified some of the most common injuries sustained in football. These include:

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:

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


Each season, estimates suggest that 10% to 19% 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 more than 20 symptoms of concussion, with the most common being:

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

Knee Injuries

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

  • Difficulty putting weight on the leg.
  • Instability.
  • Pain.
  • Swelling.

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:

  • Difficulty lifting or rotating the arm.
  • Instability.
  • Pain.
  • Popping or catching.
  • Weakness.
common football injuries

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).

Editor's Note: This gallery was originally published on , and was last reviewed on .