One of the most popular team sports in the world, soccer (also known as football, outside of the United States) is a great exercise that helps improve agility, coordination, balance and develops the ability to do teamwork among young ones. (Advanced Solutions International)
An estimated 15.5 million people play soccer in the United States.
More than 700,000 girls and boys played soccer in US high schools in 2008-09, leading to growing participation in the game. (Koutures et al.) Since it is a contact sport that also requires physical exertion and intense physical effort over a period of time, injuries are common. However, injury prevention, early detection and treatment help keep a player on the field for the long term. (Advanced Solutions International)
Common Soccer Injuries
Soccer has a higher rate of injury than many contact sports like hockey, basketball, football and rugby. A study estimated that there were 186,544 soccer-related injuries in 2006, out of which 80% affected players below 24 years of age and approximately 44% affected players younger than 15 years of age. (Koutures et al.)
Lower Extremity Injuries
Lower extremity injuries are the most common in soccer, resulting from traumatic experiences like twisting the knee or a kick to the leg or a result of overuse of any bone, muscle or tendon. Contusions, sprains or strains and fractures are possible, with fractures being less than 10% of all injuries. Knee or ankle injuries are more common. (Koutures et al.) Cartilage tears and anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) sprains in the knee are common injuries that may require surgery. Shin splints (soreness in the calf), patellar tendinitis (pain in the knee), and Achilles tendonitis (pain in the back of the ankle) are some of the more common soccer overuse conditions. (Advanced Solutions International)
Upper Extremity Injuries
These injuries represent 3-12% of the total injuries, which affect the shoulder, wrist, arm and elbow. (Koutures et al.) These injuries include shoulder dislocation, wrist sprains and wrist fractures, generally occurring from falling or outstretched hands or player-to-player contact.
Head, Face & Neck Injuries: Injuries to the head, face or neck include neck sprains, cuts, bruises, and concussions. The concussion rate for soccer players is similar to that of American football and hockey players. (Koutures et al.) Concussions affect a player’s mental state and should always be attended to by a medical professional.
Prevention of Soccer Injuries
Prevention is better than the cure and to ensure you avoid injuries while playing soccer, keep the following points in mind:
- Know the field or ground well and prevent injuries due to the poor condition of these spaces (Advanced Solutions International)
- Play fair and avoid foul play. Studies say foul play has been associated with a significant number of contact-related soccer injuries. (Koutures et al.)
- Players should undergo a seasonal physical examination and follow the doctor’s recommendations (Advanced Solutions International)
- The goalposts should be secured as per the guidelines of the manufacturer and the game authorities to reduce serious injury (Koutures et al.)
- Proper equipment should be used. Choose a properly sized ball along with well-fitted cleats and shin guards to prevent injuries (Advanced Solutions International)
- Avoid overuse injuries by not overdoing physical exertion. Take breaks from the game and rest well before and after soccer.
- Stay hydrated through the game and to avoid heat-related illnesses for children and adults, avoid playing too much in the sun.
- Maintain proper fitness as it is a game that requires physical effort. If you are playing the game after a long break, gradually get back to the physical exertion with strength training, agility training and aerobic conditioning (Advanced Solutions International)
- Protective eyewear is recommended for all soccer players, especially among children to avoid eye-related injuries while playing (Koutures et al.)
Prevention should be the goal but often, injuries cannot be avoided. In the case of an injury during the game, stop playing immediately and get professional help. Once the injury is evaluated and treated, game-play can begin again. For injuries caused by overuse, rest is necessary along with proper intervention by a healthcare professional. (Advanced Solutions International)
Children and adolescents should be encouraged to participate in soccer owing to the physical and mental benefits of the game. Even better are the life lessons learned playing team sports. (Koutures et al.) Ensure safety is part of the bigger picture to avoid injuries and be sure to enjoy the game!
Advanced Solutions International, Inc. “Preventing Soccer Injuries.” Soccer Injuries | Soccer Injury Prevention & Treatment, www.stopsportsinjuries.org/STOP/Prevent_Injuries/Soccer_Injury_Prevention.aspx.
Koutures, Chris G., et al. “Injuries in Youth Soccer.” American Academy of Pediatrics, American Academy of Pediatrics, 1 Feb. 2010, pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/125/2/410.