With the Christmas period over following back to back games top of the league remains a close battle with just six points separating the top four teams, with just eight points separating the top six teas. At the bottom end six points is all the separates the bottom six teams, with early relegation favourites Crystal Palace showing signs of resurgence following the arrival of Tony Pulis.
The last few weeks have taken its toll on all teams, with clubs taking maximum advantage of squad rotation in a bid to avoid premier league injuries whilst maintaining performance. Some players however have not made it through the period without succumbing to injury, the most notably this week was that of Theo Walcott being stretchered off during his sides FA Cup victory over local rivals Tottenham.
The knee is a focus of injuries among high impact sportsman from football to snowboarding to tennis. The knee joint sees the joining of three bones in that of the thigh bone (femur), shin bone (tibia) and knee cap (patella). These three bones are connected by four ligaments, two collateral on the outside of the joint and two cruciate ligaments within the joint.
There are a number of common injuries sustained by players, the most common are identified as follows.
A strain or sprain is probably one of the more common knee injuries experienced by professional and amateur alike. Whilst such an injury involves damage to the ligaments the condition is mild and very much self-limiting in that it will get better following a few days of rest. Such an injury is typical of overuse, where a player does too much and their joints hurt and they may experience mild inflammation.
It is important to note that should any injury fail to subside after a few days then you should seek clinical advice as it may be more serious than first thought and a clinician may be able to recommend the best course of treatment.
With most knee injuries there are no guaranteed ways of avoiding them, though you can minimise the risk through warming up before you start playing and cooling down after you finish to prevent the build-up of lactic acid. If you encounter the same knee injuries repeatedly then perhaps a knee support would be suitable to offer additional support during your chosen activity.
Tendonitis of the patella is one of the lesser common knee injuries incurred but can result from overuse in much the same way as a mild sprain or strain. It can also be referred to as ‘jumper’s knee’ and a feature of sports where jumping is involved such as basketball and volleyball.
The patella is the tendon connecting the knee cap and shin bone, with sufferers of the condition complaining of swelling. The best remedy to this is rest and the use of ice to help manage the inflammation as well as elevating your leg above your chest. Following the initial injury a patella strap can be used to apply compression to the affected area and with it reduce any inflammation experienced.
Ligament damage is probably one of the most serious knee injuries a footballer can incur, resulting in a lengthy spell on the sidelines following intensive physiotherapy and even surgery. It is the Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) which sees the majority of injuries, with 40% resulting from high impact sports. The ligament sits at the front of the knee and is responsible for the overall stabilisation of the joint.
There are varying degrees of severity of knee ligament damage, from a mild sprain to a full rupture or tear. Damage to the ligament itself occurs where the lower leg extends forward too much either from twisting unnaturally or falling awkwardly.
Recently Theo Walcott suffered such an injury, ruling him out of the remainder of the season and even the World Cup in Brazil. Van Ginkel of Chelsea also suffered a similar fate and is currently on the sidelines until June of this year but his World Cup dream is almost gone with little time to get match fit before the squads head to South America.
In severe cases of ligament knee injuries surgery is recommended to repair the ligament, with intensive physiotherapy required to help strengthen the joint before a player can get back onto the pitch. Outside of sport surgery is a personal choice depending on whether or not you are able to live normally and your lack of stabilisation in the knee does not affect your mobility.
There are alternatives to surgery, either through physiotherapy to help strengthen the knee joint or through strengthening the quads to counteract the imbalance in the joint.
As the season continues the top teams will be looking to keep their squad fit and healthy as the crucial games come thick and fast. From a player’s perspective many will have one eye on the upcoming World Cup, knowing that any premier league injuries sustained may have an impact on their chance of being included in the final squad and playing in the tournament full stop.