World Cup & Soccer Injuries

In my last blog entry I talked about soccer as a wonderful lifetime sport and activity. I also mentioned its value to athletes as a cross-training tool.

Every sport has its injuries and soccer is no exception. Overall, soccer is considered to be relatively safe- much safer than American football. The most common injuries and ailments that soccer players are likely to sustain are the following:

Muscle strains. Because of a sudden movement and twisting associated with kicking, muscle pulls are commonly seen. These usually involve the quadriceps (front thigh), hip adductors (inner thigh) and sometimes the abdominal or low back area. They can be prevented with a good year-round strengthening and stretching program including core work. Also proper warm-up.

Ankle sprains. Probably the #1 more serious injury in soccer. Again because of the excess running and cutting, especially on an uneven field, ankles are likely to turn and ligaments stretched or torn. These are treated like ankle sprains and any other sport situation. Prevention is also possible with agility, balance and proprioception training, as well as elastic tubing exercises to strengthen the ankle muscles especially the outer peroneals. Soccer players don't seem to tolerate or like preventive taping or braces as much as other athletes like those in basketball or football.

Knee injuries. Knee injuries in soccer are much less common than in the American football but the same types occur. Ligament injuries like ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) and MCL (medial collateral ligament) do occur. Female players are at higher risk for these type of ligament injuries, especially ACL. Knee meniscal (cartilage) tears are also common. Interestingly, even though knee injuries are less common in soccer and football, soccer players seem to have a higher incidence of knee osteoarthritis later in life than just about any other sport. This may be from the long-term pounding and twisting that occurs, but we do not yet have a full explanation for this higher arthritis rate.

Concussion. Because soccer players use their head to repetitively strike the ball, head injuries can occur. Some athletes seem more prone to concussion than others, and athletes who have sustained one concussion seemed to be more susceptible. Proper "heading" technique is key but does not guarantee that an injury will not occur. Neck strains also can occur from use of the head to strike the soccer ball.

Heat Related Injuries. Because of the excessive running outdoors, for long periods, in hot, humid weather, heat injuries like heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heat stroke will occur. These are serious problems and can even be fatal. They are also always preventable. Hydration is the key- before, during and after the match.

Again, every sport has its risk, and the risk for soccer seems relatively low. Certainly the rewards outweigh the risks. Injuries can be prevented with year-round conditioning, good coaching technique, and playing by the rules. Kids should wear shin guards to avoid serious contusions and even fractures to the lower leg area.

Soccer can be lots of fun. Give it a try and report back to us.