Historical evidence shows that a game very similar to our present day version of soccer has been played in various cultures, from China to ancient Greece, for over 3000 years. With over 3.5 billion fans worldwide, soccer is the most popular sport on the planet. This international popularity has also made soccer the fastest growing team sport in the United States. This sport provides a great aerobic workout; helps develop balance, agility, coordination, and teamwork. Soccer players of all ages must be aware of the risks for injury. Injury prevention, early detection, and proper treatment can keep kids and adults on the field for many years.
Due to the tremendous amount of running, twisting and turning on foot, injuries to the lower extremities are the most common in soccer. These injuries may be traumatic, such as a kick to the leg or a twist to the knee, or result from overuse of a muscle, tendon, or bone.
Most frequently, we see:
- Sprains and strains of the knee and ankle
- Cartilage tears and ACL (anterior cruciate ligament)
- Over-use injuries (Shin splints, patellar tendonitis and Achilles tendonitis)
- Stress fractures (occur when the bone becomes weak from overuse. It is often difficult to distinguish stress fractures from soft tissue injury.)
- Wrist sprains, wrist fractures, and shoulder dislocations (especially in the position of goalie, from reaching and falling on the ball)
- Injuries to the head, neck, and face (cuts and bruises, fractures and neck sprains from collisions with other players)
Tips on Preventing Soccer Injuries
- Have a pre-season physical examination and follow your doctor’s recommendations.
- Use well-fitting cleats and shin guards.
- Be aware of poor field conditions that can increase injury rates.
- Use properly sized synthetic balls — leather balls that can become waterlogged and heavy and are more dangerous, especially when heading
- Inspect and secure mobile goals that can fall on players (request fixed goals whenever possible)
- Drink plenty of fluids to replace those lost through perspiration and intense exertion (see May issue of Weekly News & Insights for more resources on proper fluid intake).
- Pay attention to environmental/weather conditions, especially in relation to excessively hot and humid weather, to help avoid heat exhaustion.
- Maintain proper fitness (including the off-season) through activities such as aerobic conditioning, strength training, and agility training.
- Avoid overuse and over-training injuries. Listen to your body and decrease training time and intensity if pain or discomfort develops.