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The Top Ten American Football Injuries

September 1, 2011

With just one more pre-season game to go, the 2011 NFL season starts soon. That we even have a season this year is amazing considering the unpredictable lockout earlier this year.

But here we are.

The players, for the most part, are in shape. But regardless if they would’ve trained through camp, injuries will still occur. Especially at the high-level professionals players play at.

What kind of injuries are we talking about? Here are the ten most common.

Sprained Ligaments

A sprain is an injury to a ligament, the tough, thick, fiber-like tissue that connects bones. Commonly injured ligaments are in the ankle, knee, and wrist. Ligaments are injured when they are stretched beyond their usual position.


A concussion is serious trauma (head snaps and strikes the ground during a tackle) to the brain that changes the way the brain works. Effects are normally temporary, but can include problems with concentration, memory, headaches, judgment, balance and coordination.

Ligament Tear

A ligament tears when it is stretched beyond normal position and snaps. In fact, you’ll usually hear a pop if you tear a ligament, like your ACL.


Bruises are usually minor, meaning the athlete won’t be pulled from the game. The injury usually heals quickly without any medical treatment. Severe bruises can require medical attention if damage is done to deep muscle tissue, putting the player on the sidelines for months.


Dislocation occurs when two bones separate at a joint. In addition, this injury may cause damage to ligaments, nerves, and blood vessels.

Strained Muscle

A muscle strain, also called a pull or tear, is a common injury, to the quadriceps and hamstring muscle sets.


In the world of sports medicine, a stress fracture is the condition where the bone starts to break down. Unlike a break or fracture, the bone, under constant stress, begins to splinter with tiny cracks.

Nerve Injury

Normally a nerve is damaged when it’s struck with tremendous force or tweaked out of it’s normal position, usually occurring during a tackle or fall to the ground.

Torn Cartilage

Menisci tears are common and include different types like the parrot-beak, longitudinal, bucket handle, mixed/complex and flap. The way they are identified is how they look and where they occur on the meniscus.


A laceration is an irregular cut in the skin from a sharp object. This might be a cleat or fingernail or the sheer force of a blunt object like a helmet pounding and pulling the skin.

Dr. Rick Lehman is a distinguished orthopedic surgeon in St. Louis, Missouri and an articular cartilage reconstruction pioneer He owns U. S. Sports Medicine in Kirkwood, MO, and LehmanHealth. Learn more about Dr. Rick.

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