Soccer is by far the number one sport in the world; over 226 countries participate and over 240 million men, women, boys and girls of all ages are players. A typical soccer player will average 7 to 9 miles of running per game, depending on their position. Soccer entails a lot of stop and go, jumping and sprinting, and a lot of body contact. There are not many substitutions or time outs, meaning there are many chances to sustain injuries.
A variety of injuries occur in soccer, most of which are below the waist. Common injuries are ankle and foot sprains and strains, knee ligament injuries, hip, groin and sports hernias, overall muscle strains, sprains and ruptures, and, lastly, fractures, to name a few. Recently, concussions have erupted as a major problem in soccer and protocols for such injuries are being developed and scrutinized.
Most soccer injuries that I have seen could have been prevented or minimized through proper conditioning, nutrition, hydration, equipment and wise coaching. Most elite teams at the professional, college and high school levels are staffed with an arsenal of professionals trained to assess, evaluate and prepare the athletes to participate safely. However, youth soccer is not as lucky with support and teams depend on the knowledge of the coaches alone to keep the players safe.
Recovery from injuries takes time, which varies depending on the magnitude of the incident. Following the appropriate assessment, evaluation and treatment by a Sports Medicine MD, athletes must be monitored and rehabilitated by a licensed Sports Medicine qualified Physical Therapist or Certified Athletic Trainer who can help them progress through recovery and guide them back to full participation.
Injuries inevitably happen, but what can coaches and athletes feasibly employ to prevent them wherever possible?
*Strength training and conditioning – research has shown that staying consistent with sports-specific training is proven to prevent injuries and enhance performance.
*Proper pre-season physical exams- these can alert coaches, players and parents to any potential problems.
*Well-fitted equipment – proper gear that fits is essential for injury prevention in all sports.
*Proper field conditions – no rocks, ruts, holes, puddles or any other potential risks.
*Properly inflated and properly sized soccer balls.
*Warm-up and static and ballistic stretching – research supports proper warm up prior to any physical exertion, especially any type of competition.
*Secure fixation of portable goals – improperly secured goals can tip and injure players.
*Hydration – both FIFA and MLS have employed mandatory water breaks. Hydrating before, during and after competition can and will prevent heat exhaustion, heat cramps or heat strokes.
*Weather monitoring – intense rain, humidity, heat or cold all can have an effect on the level of play and the athlete’s performance.
*Overuse injuries – soccer, like other sports, is no longer just seasonal. Rest is essential; playing another sport for a season or just taking a season off to rest the body is not a bad thing. All the pros do it.
*Finally, cool down and ice – research has shown that proper cool-down procedures and icing sore parts of the body can prevent further injury.
If followed correctly, these steps can and will prevent injuries. For any questions regarding any of the above, consult a Sports Medicine Professional MD, Physical Therapist or Athletic Trainer.
Dr. Lee Day is the owner of Hat City Physical Therapy. He is a Certified Athletic Trainer, certified strength and conditioning specialist, certified ITPT, ITAT concussion specialist through IMPACT and certified CPR and first aid instructor. He has a Bachelor’s and a Doctoral degree in Physical Therapy, and a Master’s Degree in Exercise Physiology. Dr. Lee has over 35 years of Orthopedic and Sports Medicine Experience with many professional, college, high school and little league athletes.
For any questions or assistance needs, please contact Dr. Lee at 203- 748- 4278, Hat City Physical Therapy.