Soccer is one of the most popular sport in the world. It continues to increase in popularity in the United States. More and more, young athletes are choosing soccer as their preferred sport. While soccer is a great form of aerobic exercise, there are some common forms of injury that if left untreated can sideline a budding athlete prematurely. With proper prevention and intervention, our youth can stay active in soccer and enhance their lifestyle with the skills they develop through playing this exciting sport.
Common injuries in soccer include traumatic injuries, especially to the lower extremities, concussions, overuse injuries, and heat injuries. Sprains and strains frequently occur. Groin pulls, and thigh and calf muscle strains, and Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) strains frequently occur during this strenous activity. Some evidence suggests that female athletes are more prone to developing ACL injuries than males. Overuse injuries such as shin splints, patellar tendinitis, and Achilles tendinitis will develop if the duration or intensity of training is too rigorous and doesn't allow the body to recuperate properly.
Traumatic injuries such as contusions and stress fractures may occur as well. Falling with outstretched arms and collisions with other players may cause fractures and dislocations that require immediate attention and cessation of playing for an extended period of time. Stress factures may develop as bones are weakened by sustained physical activity without proper rest and recuperation. If pain persists after a period of rest, a physician or physical therapist should be consulted to determine if a stress fracture has developed.
Heat injuries are also a potential hazard of playing soccer. Players, coaches, and parents should attend to weather conditions and make sure that players are properly hydrated. Players should take liquids regularly. Often by the time a player notices thirst, he or she is already becoming dehydrated.
Concussions are the result of trauma to the head usually through collision with someone or something. This generally results in an altered mental state. Symptoms are often subtle and might include headaches, confusion, dizziness, slurred speech, vomiting, and even loss of consciousness. If a concussion is suspected, the player should see a physician immediately. A player should not continue playing until a physician has cleared them to do so.
Treatment for sprains, strains, and many common overuse injuries generally begins with some rest from the activities that aggravate the injury. This might mean a youth will have to stop playing and practicing for a short period of time while an injury heals. It is very possible for any athlete, especially young athletes, to overtrain and create injuries that will become chronic and serious if ignored. It is better to allow an injury to heal for a short time than be sidelined for an entire season by a more serious injury.
For many sprains and strains, the "PRICE" method is recommended. Price is an acronym that refers the application of Protection, Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation. Use compression bandages for sore muscles and joints. Make sure that available proctective gear is in good condition and used. Applying ice, resting, compressing and elevating an injury will in many cases relieve pain, reducing swelling and facilitate healing. In addition to these steps, you might also consider taking an over-the-counter anti inflammatory like ibuprophen. If pain persists beyond a couple of days, in spite of this treatment, it would be wise to consult a physical therapist or physician about the pain to determine if the injury requires additional intervention.
Different injuries require differing interventions. Cuts may need disinfectants. Concussions would require monitoring by a physician and additional tests. Fractures might require immobilization and pain medication. When in doubt, consult a health care professional early to prevent aggravation of an injury.
As human beings we have a desire to succeed and excel. A young person may need guidance on the appropriate level of training in which to participate. A common misconception with training is more is better. If one hour of practice improves skill then two hours would improve it more, so many youth and athletes think. Such overtraining can have a disastrous effect on the body.
Exercise and activity help maintain and build healthy muscles through a process called remodeling. By creating physical stress through exercise, tendons, bones and joints will breakdown and then build up tissue in a healthy cycle. If the cycle is disrupted by breakdown occurring faster than the build up phase then overuse injuries will occur. Rest is an important part of a physical training cycle. Young athletes may need to be taught this and counseled when the appear to be overdoing it.
There are many good lists of prevention tips you can consult as a player or parent. StopSportsInjuries has an excellent brochure detailing many things that can be done to reduce the risk of injury in a young soccer player. Important considerations include equipment, the environment, and the player's condition.
- Equipment - should be in proper condition and appropriate for the sport. For soccer this would include good soccer cleats, socks, shin guards, and ball. A synthetic rather than leather ball is recommended since leather has a tendency of soaking up water and becoming more dense and apt to cause injury. Even the goals should be inspected to make sure they are properly anchored and capable of falling on a player.
- Environment - Conditions of the field should be inspected by the player and responsible adults. Possible tripping hazards, uneven ground, loose goals, all pose a potential risk of injury. The weather should monitored. If it is hot, emphasize proper hydration. Guard against slipping if it has rained recently.
- Player's condition - Players are more prone to injure themselves if they are tired or fatigued. Make sure your young person is properly rested and hydrated prior to practice or games. If the player is limping, acting confused, or otherwise acting out of the ordinary, it would be better to stop and examine him or her before proceeding with play. Remember a young person might not realize something serious is wrong. Some injuries, like concussions, cause confusion and may make it difficult for a youngster to describe what is happening or even that something is wrong. Adults need to vigilant to guard against more serious injury.
Soccer is a popular sport for a reason. It's easy to learn at a young age. It is a great way to exercise. Soccer develops balance, agility, coordination, and cooperation. It is an exciting and fast-paced game. It is just plain fun. With some care and forethought, risk of injury can be minimized. With quick intervention, the severity of an injury and time needed for recuperation can be reduced. With some background knowledge, you and your youngster can enjoy the sport and participate for many years to come.
Burger R., & Fine, K. (2012). Preventing soccer injuries. StopSportsInjuries. Retrieved from http://www.stopsportsinjuries.org/soccer-injury-prevention.aspx on September 12, 2012.
Donatelli R. (2011). How hard should my children train to improve performance. SportsMD.com. Retrieved from http://www.sportsmd.com/SportsMD_Articles/id/300.aspx on September 12, 2012.
TeensHealth (2012). Safety tips: Soccer. KidsHealth.org. Retrieved from http://kidshealth.org/teen/safety/sports_safety/safety_soccer.html on September 12, 2012.