It happens. You’re at the World Cup in Brazil, your team scores, you’re jumping around celebrating with all of your friends, but you’re the only one who doesn’t see the water bottle left lying on the ground that causes you to slip and dislocate your ankle. Ouch.
I can’t imagine it’s happened to too many physios who are on duty during World Cup finals like it did to England’s Gary Lewin last Saturday night.
It seems the England backroom staff don’t have much luck when it comes to staying clear of injury. It was only two years ago that Ray Clemence was flown home early from a tournament having snapped his Achilles tendon in a warm up with his goalkeepers.
And so the list of unexpected injuries or withdrawals from big games goes on:
Mario Balotelli, when playing for Man City, once left the field due to an allergic reaction to the pitch. Paul Gascoigne once missed an England game because of a groin strain he suffered when getting out of bed, while Kevin Kyle missed a few games after having a pan of boiling hot water poured over his ‘private area’ by his son the night before a game, and Rio Ferdinand once admitted to pulling his back after stretching to pick up a TV remote.
As a private physio, who used to work in professional football, I get to hear lots of weird and wonderful ways that people have sustained their injuries. They range from failing to warm up properly, applying ice instead or heat before a game, and even something as innocuous as leaning forward to empty a dishwasher or pick up a wine glass.
But if you had to ask me for the number one reason why most seemingly innocuous injuries actually happen, I’d say it would be down to one thing - flexibility.
For all of the injuries that could happen to you while you’re playing sport or just out and about enjoying life, they’re nearly always linked to a lack of flexibility.
Even Lewin’s injury is easier to understand when you know that the ligaments in his ankle got stretched as he slipped. Ideally what would have happened is that those same ligaments would have had enough elasticity to stretch as he was falling, but because the ligaments didn’t, his whole ankle joint popped out of place and it is likely that the ligaments snapped completely as it did.
I’m not suggesting that it could have been avoided, sometimes with all the will in the world injuries just happen, but to lower the risk of these injuries happening to you, work on your flexibility and add in some balance exercises – particularly if you’re aged 40+.
Do that on a balance ball, do yoga and pilates and stretch for seven minutes at the beginning and end of each day and you’ll be in a much better position to slip on a water bottle and not dislocate an ankle.