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Football Injuries: Lacerations

December 10, 2011

In early November the Consumer Product Safety Commission reported that a helmet strap made by Under Armor was causing lacerations when players were coming into contact with the sharp edges of the metal button that was used to snap the strap in place.

Under Armor received a total of six reports of injuries which involved a recall of 541,000 of  the $20 straps.

Lacerations are not uncommon in football, including equipment, but in this case, this is unusual. What other ways could a player get a laceration when playing football?

  • A players fingernails could tear the skin of another player during a tackle or when both were going after the football.
  • Being hit by the face guard of a helmet with such a blunt force that the skin is torn.
  • Stepped on by the cleat of another player while arm, leg or hands or some other part of the body is on the ground.
  • Obstacle in the ground that players skin runs across, causing a tear in the skin.
  • Injury to the chin from the helmet of another player coming into contact with the said player’s chin.
  • Strings on the football, if drawn across the skin of the player harshly and quickly, can also cause injury to a player’s skin, tearing it open.

Most football players can play through a laceration. What kind of treatment they should get depends on the severity of the wound. If it’s just a small cut, take the following steps:

  • Stop the bleeding by applying force directly to the cut area.
  • Clean the wound with warm water and soap.
  • Protect the wound by applying an antibiotic ointment. This will reduce the chance of infection and then apply a clean bandage over the cut.

If the cut is deep and won’t stop bleeding or is over a joint, or can’t get the cut clean, then you should probably see a doctor. You should also visit a doctor if the person has had not a tetanus shot in the last 5 or 10 years or if the cut is from a human bite, which watching the antics of a Albert Haynesworth or Ndamukong Su, you’ll know it’s possible.

Follow Up

To promote better healing, take off the bandage after a few days. If you see signs of infection like swelling or pus and redness and excessive pain, go see a doctor.

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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