As football has become increasingly popular, the National Football League has seen players become bigger, stronger, and faster. With this, they have also seen an increase in injuries, particularly of the foot and ankle. When players have a higher muscle mass, their feet and ankles must absorb greater force, leading to an increased risk of injury. Common injuries in the NFL include Achilles tendon tears, midfoot sprains, Jones fractures, and more.
However, while foot and ankle injuries are increasing, the rehabilitation rate is decreasing. Football players are returning to the field at a much faster rate, some as early as six months following the injury. Unlike years past, these players are able to come back onto the field and make explosive plays instead of having little to no mobility.
Why are NFL players able to return to the field quicker than in the past? Many physicians and physical therapists point to earlier rehabilitation that includes antigravity treadmill use. The sooner athletes are able to participate in weight-bearing exercises, the quicker they heal. Additionally, for those that need surgery, techniques are much less invasive than twenty years ago, meaning recovery time has decreased.
Unfortunately, prevention may be difficult. There is only so much one can do in the weight room to increase stability in your feet and ankles. Advances in shoe design have been minimal; in fact, while cleats have been developed to increase speed and agility, they have done nothing to help with foot and ankle injury rates.
There is a great opportunity amongst researchers and physical therapists to address these injuries on a preventative basis. Providing focus and funding to the “crisis of Achilles and other foot/ankle complex injuries” will offer benefits to both the NFL and athletes all over.
Courtesy of: LER Magazine