Euro 2016 fever is well and truly underway.
As we speak, international fans from across the continent are gathering in local pubs, living rooms, or some even lucky enough to be inside the stadiums to watch the games unfold. The most fervent of them can be found with passionate displays of emotions; following every, pass, kick and header, shouting at the players on how they can improve their technique.
The majority of football fans have loved the sport from an early age and have followed the players they admire since they started their careers, most of which started their training at a very young age. These kids dedicate their lives to playing a sport they love, a weekend with no sight of a ball would be alien to them.
As we watched Marcus Rashford make his debut and gain his first England cap this month, by representing his country at the age of just 18, we reflect on how hard these boys need to train to fulfill their dreams of playing the beautiful game professionally.
From a Young Age
Having spoken to one of my colleagues whose son plays for a local Academy, it quickly became clear that aspiring to become a footballer, isn’t just about dedicating your free time to training at the weekend and maybe a couple of times during the week. Pursuing a dream to become a professional footballer, means undertaking a tough regime and going beyond people’s expectation of it being an afterschool hobby.
Playing serious football at a young age, is a great way for children to be active on a regular basis and prevents them from sitting in front of the TV with a console in hand. Learning valuable lessons in discipline and respect, as well as starting new friendships with other children from all walks of life is a priceless learning curve.
However, despite all the benefits of taking part in extracurricular activities, there are a few downsides; injuries or niggles that are sustained and left untreated, can be detrimental for the young athletes.
Harris & Ross’ Senior Physio, Martin McDaid has previously worked at Manchester City Academy and has seen a wide range of injuries hobbling in to his treatment room. From working with adults to children, there is a clear difference in the science behind the rehabilitation of injuries.
When diagnosing and treating athletes, it is important to consider the age and physical maturity of the player, as depending on the age, each are subject to different injuries. Younger footballers will more commonly suffer with tendon attachment injuries rather than muscle strains, due to the weak attachment between the bone and tendon*. Balancing a packed schedule and a growing body, they have to ensure their health and fitness are in top working order!
Common Injuries in Young Footballers
Osgood Schlatter’s disease presents as pain at the front of the shin, under the knee and mainly affects sporty children between 11-15 year olds. It usually occurs after a growth spurt, where bones lengthen faster than the muscles develop, causing the quads to pull at the bone; therefore, resulting in inflammation and pain.
Severs disease is characterised by heel pain and can be seen more so in 8-11 year olds, again associated with growth spurts, causing the achilles to pull on to the back of the foot. This is often made worse by impact exercise, such as running and jumping. Dependent on your growth, Severs can last a few months to a few years.
Both conditions are common with increased exercise and a change in footwear or playing surfaces. However, the injuries can also be the result of poor lower limb biomechanics, which is where visiting a physio comes in handy.
The more active a player, the more the injury will hurt, and therefore education on changing habits can help with the symptoms. For example, icing the area for 20 minutes after any exercise, will definitely help with the healing process.
Injuries sustained by adolescents are preventable, therefore it is recommended that active children have pre-participation screenings and obtain the right advice on training during their development.
For further information or to book an appointment with one of our experienced physios, please call us 0161 832 9000
*Please note, this sentence has been amended