Football is one the biggest participation sports in the UK, and inevitably hundreds of footballers suffer some kind of injury each week. Here’s a guide to the basic things you need to know to treat minor football injuries plus a run-down of the first aid equipment you should have at every game and training session…
Fortunately, the most common football injuries are things like bruises, sprains and strains – none of which are particularly serious. Severe injuries are rare, but it is important to know how to recognize these so that you can act appropriately. For this reason, there is no substitute for proper first aid training and a qualified first aider should always be present. Training courses in sports first aid are widely available.
That said, even if you’re not a qualified first aider yourself there is still lot you can do to limit the harm caused by run-of-the-mill bumps and knocks. There are just a few common sense principles to bear in mind. (And, obviously, all these tips apply equally well to other sports.)
Treatment for minor bruises may include ice and elevation to limit internal bleeding. Immediately cooling and elevating the area will help to limit swelling by preventing fluid from collecting there. Elevation is easy – just hold the affected limb up (preferably above the level of heart.) Instant ice packs are probably the best and most convenient form of ice for use on the sideline. They require no refrigeration; you just shake them up and they instantly become very cold.
The best outcomes tend to be achieved when the injury is cooled down and elevated immediately. Following this, rest and protection from re-injury will help a rapid recovery from bruising.
Bleeding (cuts, grazes or scratches etc…)
Proper care is essential to avoid infection or other complications when treating bleeding cuts. Wash and dry your hands then cover any cuts on your own hands and put on disposable gloves before treating the injury.
The wound can be cleaned under running water or with a saline solution such as an eyewash pod. Pat dry with a sterile dressing or clean lint-free cloth. If the cut or graze is bleeding heavily you should stop the bleeding by applying pressure to the area using a bandage or a dressing for about 20 minutes. If possible elevate the injury by propping the limb up so that it is above the level of the heart.
Cover the cut temporarily while you clean the surrounding skin with soap and water and then pat dry the cleaned skin. Cover the cut completely with a sterile dressing or plaster to keep the wound clean.
Muscle and joint injuries (e.g. strains and sprains)
In the case of a muscle or joint injury on the field use the PRICE protocol as quickly as possible to minimise the effects of the injury. P.R.I.C.E. is an acronym for the most important elements of first aid for many injuries:
- P is for Protection – Prevent further damage by using padding and protection. For instance, crutches to avoid bearing weight on the injury, or splints to immobilise and support the injury. If a fracture or dislocation is suspected, try to stabilise and protect in the current position.
- R is for Rest – Allow the injury time to heal – which is important even in the case of a minor injury – by ensuring that the injured body part is rested as soon as the injury has taken place. Continued exercise or other activity could cause further injury and stimulate bleeding, which will delay healing and increase pain.
- I is for Ice – Applying cold to an injury will limit swelling, bleeding and tissue damage, which improves recovery and reduces loss of function. Cold also numbs pain. First aid guides usually suggest using an ice pack for up to 20 minutes at a time. After this, allow the skin to warm for 15 minutes before cooling it again (if necessary). The pack may sit directly on the injured part, or it may be wrapped in place.
- C is for Compression – Compression of the injury site will help to reduce the swelling by slowing bleeding and accumulation of fluid around the injury. Use a stretch bandage, such as cohesive or crepe, and begin wrapping below the injured area and extend above the injured area. Be careful not to wrap the area so tightly that the blood supply is impaired. Check the tightness every few minutes, because continued swelling can quickly cause excessive tightening of the compression.
- E is for Elevation – Elevate the iced, compressed area in whatever way is most convenient to decrease swelling and pain at the injury site. For instance, an injured leg can be propped up on a solid object. You could elevate an injured arm by placing it on the chest with the arm folded across. If the patient is lying down, you could also prop up the injured limb on rolled up coats, training bibs, tracksuits etc…
Tackle injuries with a fully stocked First Aid Kit
Hopefully your club first aid kits will not see much action through the season, but if a situation ever arises where one is needed, being prepared will really come in handy. Being able to treat a player immediately is vital to ensure the best outcome from injury. Having a fully stocked first aid kit will help the team first aider safely treat minor injuries effectively and this helps to minimise the effects of injury.
Typically, the minimum football first aid kit recommended by county FAs will look something like this:
- 1 x Medium Dressing
- 1 x Large Dressing
- 2 x Triangular Bandage
- 1 x Eye Pad with Bandage
- 2 x Crepe Bandage 5cm x 4.5m
- 1 x Low Adherent Dressing 5cm x 5cm
- 1 x Low Adherent Dressing 10cm x 10cm
- 20 x Washproof Plasters
- 1 x Microporous Tape 2.5cm
- 6 x Safety Pins
- 1 x Instant Cold Pack
- 2 x Eye Wash Pod 20ml
- 2 x Clinical Waste Bag
- 1 x Foil Blanket
- 10 x Antiseptic Wipes
- 2 x Pair of Medical Gloves
- 1 x Pair of Scissors
In practice, you will want to have a larger kit that contains more ‘spares’ so you have enough equipment to cover most eventualities – it’s easy to imagine a situation where you need more than one ice pack or more than one sterile dressing. We recommend a more comprehensive Pitch Side First Aid Kit to all sports teams.
Waiting until an injury occurs on the pitch is not the best time to discover you don’t have all the first aid items you need, so it’s important to be prepared with the right kit. The coach, or those responsible for the provision of first aid, should routinely inspect the first aid kits to ensure that they are fully stocked.