Are you ready for some football? Maybe you love it, maybe you hate it; either way, there’s no denying that football is a big deal in this country. In addition to the start of the season, football has been making headlines in mainstream news recently as the National Football League has made a $765 million settlement with a group of 4,500 retired players who sued over injury compensation relating to concussion issues. One of the main reasons football is such an exciting sport to watch is that it requires physical intensity – hitting, blocking, tackling, throwing, jumping and catching. But all that forceful action creates countless opportunities for risk, including the potential for serious spine injuries.
You may not have a professional athlete in the family but the same injury risks that apply to pro players can affect youth, high school or college football athletes, and even “everyday Joes” who like to play a casual game with friends. I know a lot of guys who kickoff the fantasy football season with a game of touch, flag or tackle football, and it seems that someone always gets hurt, even though the game is meant to simply spark friendly competition for the coming season. Sound familiar?
The truth is football can be a very dangerous sport that involves full body contact with a high potential for traumatic spine injury, especially if the proper precautions aren’t taken beforehand. The good news? Much has been done to minimize the risk of spinal injury in this sport such as improvements in tackling and blocking techniques, revised safety rules for playing the game, and advances in medical care for athletes who have been injured. In recreational backyard or park games though, it’s not likely that anyone is wearing protective gear or is trained in proper techniques for hitting, blocking or even falling the correct way to avoid injury. So if you’re out there playing a “friendly” game, it should be kept in mind that tackling someone to the ground and falling incorrectly pose a serious risk for injury and should be avoided.
As they keep tabs on fantasy players’ health, it’s important to be aware of your loved ones’ health too. Injuries can ruin the fun of football season even when it’s simply watching from the comfort of your couch. That comfortable spot on the sofa may be encouraging poor posture over the course of a lengthy game, adding stress and strain to the discs, muscles and ligaments that support the spine. Exercise is important for spine health so during long games, try encouraging avid fans to stretch or do sit ups or push-ups (maybe even entice them into a friendly contest!), or go for a quick walk during halftime.
According to the National Institutes of Health, back pain affects eight out of ten people due to the amount of stress we all put on our spines. This season, don’t forget to find ways for the people you care about to stay active, healthy and safe whether they’re football players, tossing around the pigskin in the backyard or cheering on a favorite team from the comfort of their own living rooms.