Don't look if you're sqeamish: The 4 most common injuries in football

Over in the United States, the American football fraternity has been stunned by the early retirement of highly-rated player Chris Borlands.

Despite recently signing a US$3 million ($4.2m) contract with the San Francisco 49ers, the inside linebacker said that he didn't want "to have any neurological diseases or die younger than I would otherwise"  as his reason to retire.

At just 24, Borlands' decision to call it quits on a promising and lucrative NFL career over health concerns has sent shockwaves around the US, causing some to question the safety of the game.

While not as contact heavy as its American cousin, football also has its fair share of common injury problems.

Here are the four most common football-related injuries as listed by world football governing body Fifa and some examples of the worst injuries players have suffered.

Warning, some graphic images and videos ahead.

1) Ankle injuries

Unsurprisingly for a game called football, most of the injuries related to the Beautiful Game are foot- and ankle-related.

Every so often we fear for players because of reckless tackles snapping bones.

Dutch legend Marco van Basten, one of the game's greatest strikers, was forced to retire early at 31 because of a long-term ankle problem.

Indeed, Fifa states on its website that a sprained ankle "is the single most common injury in football". Statistically, Australian physiotherapist website Physio Works listed that ankle and feet injuries accounted for somewhere between 40 to 45 per cent of all leg injuries in football.

Recently, metatarsal fractures - breaks in the five feet bones that came to everyone's attention due to David Beckham's injury in 2002 - have become more prevalent as well.

While not as common as sprains, footballers have also been known to dislocate their ankles and even break them by the most innocuous means.

Former Leeds United striker Alan Smith is perhaps one of the most horrific broken ankle victims after his leg gave out while charging down a John Arne Riise shot during a 2006 FA Cup tie between Manchester United and Liverpool.



2) Knee Injuries

Moving up the leg, knee injuries are also fairly common - and potentially career-threatening.

Occurring at a rate of 25 per cent of all leg injuries, knee problems commonly manifest as damage to the anterior cruciate ligament, commonly known as the ACL.

Fifa says that tears to this ligament are one of the most severe injuries in football, often requiring major surgery and lengthy rehabilitation periods to repair.

Colombian striker Radamel Falcao was a high-profile victim of the dreaded ACL in January last year, forcing him to miss the World Cup in June after he failed to regain his fitness in time.

3) Hamstring injuries

Associated mostly with quick and pacy players, hamstring injuries come about because of the sudden and explosive twitches that help footballers achieve the bursts of speed, according to Fifa.

Spectators know that once a player in full flight suddenly pulls up and starts to grab the back of his thigh, the stricken footballer has picked up the hamstring curse and will be quickly substituted.

Despite the rivalry between them, Manchester United and Liverpool fans should know a fair bit about hamstring injuries.

Ex-United winger Ryan Giggs was such a frequent hamstring injury victim that Red Devils fans coined a song about it while Liverpool's Daniel Sturridge has only recently returned to fitness after a lengthy struggle with a hamstring problem.

4) Head injuries

While not as prevalent as in American football, soccer players are also at risk of picking up head injuries, with Physio Works estimating that four to 20 per cent of football injuries are sustained to the head.

Whether it is clashing with other players, goalposts or hitting the floor, footballers can easily sustain a concussion and get themselves knocked out.

Studies have also shown that even heading the ball can cause players to suffer brain damage.

Apart from being particularly distressing to other players on the pitch, head injuries are the one kind of injury that require referees to immediately stop play once they notice it.

In more severe cases, players have fractured their skulls like what happened to Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Cech in October 2006, when he was tackled by Reading's Stephen Hunt. The Czech nearly died.

While he underwent surgery and made his return three months later, Cech now plays with a rugby-style head guard to protect himself from further injury.

Sources: Fifa, Physio Works

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