Raphael S. F. Longobardi, MD
Sports Medicine Specialist
Board certified Orthopaedic Surgeon
Due to the size of the players, speed of the game and the sheer physical nature of the game, injuries related to playing football are quite common. As a matter of fact, football produces the highest rate of injuries per player per hour than any other sport. The highest injury rates are seen in professional football. Interestingly, but not surprisingly, most injuries occur during actual games, rather than practice; this is because players tend to 'play harder' and take more risks during a game.
Prevention is always the key, and should be a primary goal for everyone involved in the sport. Given the physical aspect of football, injuries are inevitable. Knee and ankle sprains are the most common injuries treated. The most common knee injury in football is a sprained medial collateral ligament, or MCL. The MCL is one of the four main stabilizing ligaments that support the knee joint. The MCL is located on the inner aspect of the knee. MCL injuries usually occur while making a tackle or while blocking – too often they are a result of an illegal hit. Fortunately, MCL injuries often heal on their own without the need for surgery. Treatment of these injuries usually require the wearing of a double-hinged knee brace for 4-6 weeks, as well as a course of rehabilitation. Return to play is determined by the degree of stability/instability of the knee and security in the brace.
Many athletes ask if wearing a brace can help prevent a knee injury. There have been studies performed by both the NFL and the NCAA which show that MCL injuries can be prevented by wearing a double-hinged knee brace. This brace provides the most protection for offensive and defensive linemen when this extra piece of equipment is properly fitted and worn.