Three Common Football Injuries and How to Prevent Them

We haven’t been able to say this for 50 years, but it’s really happening: The Chiefs are playing in the Super Bowl this Sunday! And while we realize the risk of injury is low for the millions who will watch from their couches (except maybe losing their voices from cheering too loudly), there’s never a wrong time to talk about sports injury prevention.

In keeping with the Super Bowl theme, let’s focus on preventing three common football injuries, starting with the one that made every Chiefs fan gasp in unison last October …


Fans braced for disaster when quarterback Patrick Mahomes left a game against Denver with a dislocated kneecap – which meant his patella, the flat bone covering the knee joint, was knocked out of its normal position and moved to the side of his knee. (Fortunately, Mahomes was out only three weeks, and the rest is history.)

A joint dislocation means the bones that form the joint have slipped out of place or been forced out of the socket, often due to high impact. Dislocations can cause severe pain, swelling, immobility and a visible deformity in the joint. They occur most often in the shoulder, but knees, ankles, hips, elbows, fingers, toes and the jaw can be dislocated as well.

Tips for preventing joint dislocation:

  • Wear protective gear during contact sports
  • Take special care to avoid falls, particularly when climbing stairs or walking on slippery floors
  • Avoid standing on unstable surfaces, such as on chairs
  • Follow an exercise routine that strengthens the quadriceps (the thigh muscles that extend over the kneecap) and promotes joint stability
  • Use braces to support your joints as needed
  • Maintain an appropriate weight to avoid extra stress on your joints

ACL Injury

Anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tears and sprains rank among the most common football-related knee injuries. In fact, Chiefs fans unfortunately saw safety Juan Thornhill suffer an ACL tear in the final regular-season game after a standout rookie year.

The ACL is like a rope that runs from the femur to the tibia, helping to stabilize the knee and control its rotation. When an athlete lands incorrectly or changes direction suddenly, it can put too much pressure on the ACL and cause the ligament to tear or rupture. Unintentional falls or blows to the knee can also result in ACL injuries, which may feel like a “popping” sensation accompanied by severe pain, swelling and instability.

Consider these steps to help avoid ACL injuries:

  • Warm up and stretch before activity
  • Strengthen your core muscles for improved stability and balance, in case of a quick change in direction or a sudden stop
  • Practice correct form for jumping, landing, and planting the foot
  • Choose footwear that provides proper support
  • Perform exercises that strengthen the glutes, quadriceps and hamstring muscles
  • Good nutrition and hydration help keep ligaments strong

Hamstring Strain

A hamstring strain can be a pull, a partial tear or a complete tear of one or more of the three muscles that run down the back of the thigh. This group of muscles enables you to bend your knee and extend your leg behind your body.

When these muscles get overloaded, fatigued or stretched beyond their limits, injuries become more likely. Contact is not necessary for a hamstring injury to occur, as was the case of Chiefs running back Darrel Williams when his leg buckled underneath him in a late-season game. A hamstring strain can cause sharp, sudden pain, swelling and bruising.

What you can do to help prevent a hamstring strain:

  • Warm up before physical activity, stretch and cool down after
  • Don’t play through pain – stop activity if you feel a twinge
  • Try a stretching and strength-training routine that targets the hamstring, glutes and core for better support and stability
  • Focus on improving flexibility
  • Add speed work to prepare the hamstring muscles for handling the forces of running and sprinting, but be careful not to overdo it

The best medicine is prevention, so we encourage all athletes and active adults to focus on preventing injury. Of course, if an injury occurs anyway, our team stands ready to provide the care you need to return to play as safely and quickly as possible. For an appointment or more information about our sports medicine expertise, please call 913-319-7600.

To all our friends and family in Chiefs Kingdom, enjoy the big game Sunday. Go Chiefs!

About Dickson-Diveley Orthopaedics

Since 1923, Dickson-Diveley Orthopaedics has provided high-quality orthopedic care. Our patient care team includes board-certified, fellowship-trained orthopedic surgeons and physiatrists, as well as physician assistants, nurse practitioners, durable medical equipment specialists and more. With two convenient locations in Leawood and Kansas City, Dickson-Diveley Orthopaedics offers surgical and non-surgical treatment options across all subspecialties of orthopedic medicine.


The medical information contained in the Dickson-Diveley Orthopaedics website is provided to increase your knowledge and understanding of orthopedic conditions. This information should not be interpreted as a recommendation for a specific medical or surgical treatment plan. As each patient may have specific symptoms or associated problems, the treatment regimen for a specific patient may not be the proper treatment for another.

Gaining knowledge and understanding of a particular problem or condition is the first step in any medical treatment plan. We believe the information presented on our website will be helpful for those individuals experiencing hand and wrist diseases, injuries, or other related problems. However, this information is not intended to replace the advice of your family physician. You are encouraged to consult with your physician to discuss any course of treatment presented or suggested.