First aid and football injuries

Most football injuries are minor, with bruises, strains and sprains ranking high on the list. Effective first aid helps to minimize the effects of injury, and is easy to learn, especially the basics. Not every football team has a doctor present all the time so it is advisable to have a first aider to be on-site in case of the likely event of injury.

Fortunately, severe injuries are rare in football, but it is important to recognise these and get help quickly. But for the most common injuries you can give effective first aid if you know some basic principles on what do and what not to do. The problem is recognising how severe an injury is, and this might not be at all easy. After all, everyone just wants to go on playing. If you need to decide whether or not you or a team-mate should continue to play or train, recognising the signs is essential.

One key thing to remember is to never move a player with a suspected neck or spine injury or if they are unconscious.

The most common football injuries are as follows:-

Ankle strains and sprains. Apply ice and elevate the limb with compression to reduce swelling, before seeing a doctor. Try not to walk on the leg and certainly stop playing.
Knee injuries. Running, jumping, tackling are all moves that put a great deal of pressure on the knee, causing it to swell or become dislocated. If the player suffers a dislocation, support around the limb and call 999/112 immediately.
Hamstring and tendon injuries. The Achilles ‘heel is named for a Greek warrior named Achilles, a man of such strength that he could never be beaten. His only vulnerable spot on his invincible body was the tendon that ran from the back of his ankle to his heel. Tendonitis is a painful inflammation of the Achilles’ heel (or tendon), that runs from the ankle to the heel and is common in football because running, pounding, and tackling leads to injury during the game.
Head injuries. Sometimes, a hard tackle from the back of the knees brings the player down fast and hard on his head. Skull Fractures cause a soft area on head with blood in the white of the eye, distortion or a lack of facial symmetry. Treatment is to check ABC’s (Airway, Breathing and Circulation), keep body upright, monitor, 999/112. Concussion is where the brain is shaken due to a violent blow to head, e.g. a kick to the skull. If the player is conscious, support them in comfortable position and monitor. Call 999/112 immediately. If they are unconscious then constantly monitor their ABC’s and put them in the recovery position, monitor and get help!
Dehydration and sun burn. Always have water readily available to the players and if the weather is very hot then sunblock is recommended (especially for children)
Emergency situations. Always have emergency numbers available and know which is the closest hospital or emergency facility.
Call for an ambulance with any of the following:-

Neck or spine injuries (never move a player with suspected neck injury!) Cervical spine injury. The violent, high-velocity impact may cause back and spinal cord injury.
Broken bones. Never try and re-attach the bones, just provide support either side of the injury and control any external bleeding.
More severe injuries to the Head or face
Eye injuries such as a black eye. Football can be a violent game and a thrown football, an accidental tackle that lands a hand or foot above the face, can all cause a black eye.
Abdominal injuries. Do not touch the area affected and wait for an ambulance in case of internal bleeding.
Any uncertainty about the degree of injury
Broken nose. Control any bleeding but do not attempt to reattach cartilage or bone.
Concussion (never move an unconscious player!)
Broken teeth. Even if a player is wearing a protective mouth guard, teeth can be pushed in, broken, and chipped if the face hits the ground with force.

General treatments for football injuries

At all games there should be a first aid kit available and they should include bandages, adhesive tape, scissors, pain killers, rubbing alcohol, sterile eye wash, and instant ice packs.

For foot and ankle pain, think of RICE: Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation. If you can get off the field, do so! Implementing these four measures will decrease swelling, pain, and inflammation. Prevention is better than cure and so strength-training exercises on gym machines will help vulnerable knees, legs, shoulders, backs, and necks. Warm up jogs around the pitch are mandatory, as are stretching exercises before the game begins.


Injuries to the knee and ankle are the most common in football, but brain injuries are by far the most dangerous. Call 999/112 immediately to get the player to a hospital.

Spinal Cord Injuries

Any player with shortness of breath, numbness, tingling or paralysis after a fall or contact with another player should be considered to have a spinal cord injury. Never move the player but keep an eye on ABC’s whist waiting for an ambulance.


At all games it is advisable to have a designated first aider at the scene of every game to:-

Preserve life
Prevent further injury/deterioration
Promote recovery of casualty
Do no further harm