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August 3, 2023

Helping Avoid Common Football Injuries

ThedaCare Orthopedic Doctor and Athletic Trainer Offer Advice to Help Keep Athletes Safe

As summer winds down, athletic practices for fall sports are beginning, increasing the possibility of physical injuries for student athletes. Here’s a review of some of the most common injuries football players experience and some ways to avoid them.

“It shouldn’t be surprising that football ranks high on the list of sports where athletes experience frequent injuries. In fact, it has the highest rate of injury of any sport,” said

Nickolas Linkous, M.D., an Orthopedic Sports Surgeon with ThedaCare Orthopedic Care. “As with all sports activities, there are ways to lessen the likelihood of injury. And it is important that athletes, coaches, parents and others help students take steps to stay safe and healthy as the participate.”

Dr. Linkous explained that some of the initial steps to help athletes is to ensure kids have warmed up their muscles properly before practices and games. He also said wearing the correct type of protective gear that fits properly, such as helmets, mouth guards, proper shoes, knee pads and shoulder pads.

“Participating in the right conditioning and training programs for the sport and position played is also important,” he noted. “Overall, athletes should focus on maintaining and increasing flexibility by participating in aerobic activities, strength exercises and endurance drills. Staying hydrated and eating a health diet are also very important.”

The most common injuries experienced by football players include:

  • Knee ligament injuries – ACL and MCL strains/tears
  • Foot and ankle injuries, including turf toe
  • Quad, hamstring and groin strains
  • Head injuries (primarily concussion) 
  • Shoulder and neck injuries
  • Wrist and hand injuries

Dr. Linkous noted that football season for most school and recreational leagues typically lasts only about 10 weeks.

“If someone gets injured and has to miss several weeks, that can be a significant portion of their season, in addition to the physical problems they experience,” he said. “That makes diagnosing and treating injuries in a timely manner important.”

Options for Immediate Care

ThedaCare Orthopedic Walk-in Care is available seven days a week. The clinic is located at 2400 E. Capitol Drive, Appleton, and is open Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. and on Saturday and Sunday from 8 a.m. to noon. To save time ahead of your visit, go to and click on “I’m On My Way.”

Orthopedic Walk-in Care is available to anyone who is suffering from a broken bone, muscle injury, work injury, swollen joint, sprain, strain, back pain, fracture or dislocation. At their first visit, patients may have x-rays or other imaging taken, meet with a specialist provider, and receive an initial treatment. Providers can also arrange for follow-up care as needed.

“We have all the diagnostic equipment and specially trained professionals needed to assess and treat any orthopedic injuries,” said Dr. Linkous. “That includes the full range of imaging, bracing and casting services.”

Other Common Football Injuries

Concussions are the most serious injury concern for football players. Nausea, dizziness, headaches, loss of concentration, blurry vision, or loss of balance are common signs of a concussion, and the athlete should report such symptoms to their coach or athletic trainer immediately.

“Trying to keep playing is not recommended,” explained Cassy Timmers, a ThedaCare licensed athletic trainer (LAT) for the Appleton Area School District. “A concussion can have serious, long-term consequences.” 

Timmers encourages parents to question their players about any serious hits they may have experienced during a game, and to not hesitate to have their player examined by a physician if they feel something is amiss.

“It’s important for kids to know their athletic trainer and have a relationship with them so they know them well, and can recognize changes in an athlete’s behavior that might tip them off to an injury,” she said. “Kids don’t always want to admit they are hurt, and an observant coach or athletic trainer can spot when a kid is acting or playing differently.”

ThedaCare provides licensed athletic trainers (LATs) for more than a dozen school districts in Northeast and Central Wisconsin, protecting and caring for nearly 13,000 students.

ThedaCare LATs work on the sidelines of athletic events — and behind the scenes. As health care providers, ThedaCare offers student-athletes a wide range of services, including:

  • Immediate injury care
  • Injury and illness evaluation
  • Coordination of care with providers
  • Rehabilitation services
  • Guidance for managing chronic injuries
  • Assistance keeping athletes in the game when appropriate or recommending relative rest when needed

Timmers explained with proper training, athletes can reduce their injury risk. ThedaCare LATs are committed to injury prevention and overall wellness. They guide coaches and athletes on important issues, including:

  • Dehydration and fluid replacement
  • Safe practice during heat and humidity
  • Concussion prevention and care
  • Mental health and overall wellness
  • Nutrition counseling for optimal health and performance
  • Smart conditioning to minimize injuries and maximize performance

Dr. Linkous said even with the risk of injury at some point, playing a team sport like football can be a great experience for youth.

“It can teach them the importance of cooperation, understanding their responsibility to the team and themselves,” he said. “It can also teach them social interaction skills and it helps them feel part of something larger than themselves. We all like to feel we are part of something greater, so I encourage kids to play team sports. It’s just important that they engage in safe practices to reduce the likelihood of injury and, if injured, to seek professional medical guidance in a timely manner. We want all of our student athletes to have a safe, successful season.”

About ThedaCare

For more than 110 years, ThedaCare® has been committed to improving the health and well-being of the communities it serves in Northeast and Central Wisconsin. The organization delivers care to more than 650,000 residents in 17 counties and employs approximately 7,000 providers and team members. ThedaCare has 180 points of care, including eight hospitals. As an organization committed to being a leader in Population Health, team members are dedicated to empowering people to live their unique, best lives. ThedaCare also partners with communities to understand needs, finding solutions together, and encouraging health awareness and action. ThedaCare is the first in Wisconsin to be a Mayo Clinic Care Network Member, giving specialists the ability to consult with Mayo Clinic experts about a patient’s care. ThedaCare is proud to partner with Children’s Wisconsin and Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin health network to enhance convenient access to the most advanced levels of specialty care. ThedaCare is a not-for-profit health system with a level II trauma center, comprehensive cancer treatment, stroke and cardiac programs, as well as primary care.

For more information, visit or follow ThedaCare on social media. Members of the media should call Cassandra Wallace, Public and Media Relations Consultant at 920.442.0328 or the ThedaCare Regional Medical Center-Neenah switchboard at 920.729.3100 and ask for the marketing person on call.