Soccer is a game of explosive acceleration, split-second changes of direction and high speed proximity to other players. Though safer than some sports involving greater levels of body contact, injuries in soccer are not uncommon.
Common Soccer Injuries
As soccer is a game primarily played with the feet and legs it is not surprising that soccer injuries tend to occur mainly in the upper and lower legs, groin, knees, ankles and feet. Common types of injury include:
- Medial ligament rupture.
- Anterior cruciate ligament rupture.
- Meniscus injury.
- Hamstring injury.
- Groin strain.
- Sprained ankle.
- Metatarsal fracture (fracture to the long bones of the foot).
- Shin fracture.
Preventing Soccer Injuries
Soccer players can significantly reduce the possibility of injury by adopting a pre-game warm up/stretching routine, ensuring appropriate levels of fitness and by using correct equipment.
The benefits of adequately warming up before a match or training session are:
- Increased muscle temperature.
- Increased oxygenation of muscles.
- Increased blood flow to muscles.
- Increased range of movement.
All of the above warm-up benefits contribute to greater strength and flexibility of the joints and muscles and by doing so reduce the risk of soccer injury.
A good warm up routine should include gentle running, stretching and specific drills to balance and loosen the body. Warm-ups should be of between 15 – 30 minutes duration and completed not more than 30 minutes before the start of a match or training session.
FIFA has developed a comprehensive warm-up routine called 11+. It’s aim is to reduce soccer injuries and you can find out about it here.
Correct Equipment and Playing Environment
The risk of soccer injury can be further reduced by using appropriate and properly fitting equipment.
Soccer boots should have studs that suit the playing surface. They should also fit properly and provide adequate protection for the foot.
Shin pads should be worn to protect the lower leg.
The pitch you play on should be well maintained and without holes, bald spots or debris.
Soccer balls should be made of non-absorbent synthetic leather. Natural leather can become waterlogged in wet conditions, making the ball heavy and dangerous to play with.
Players should ensure that their bodies are able to handle the demands that soccer places upon them. A training routine that increases aerobic fitness and muscular strength will reduce the potential for soccer injuries. A player in good condition will withstand injury more readily and will be less likely to make fatigue induced injury-causing mistakes.
Warm-Down and Recovery
After training or a match, soccer players should warm-down with a light jog and easy stretching. A warm down aids the body in recovering from the rigors of exercise by restoring normal heart rate, reducing muscle soreness and helping to remove metabolic waste products from the muscles.
Adequate rest is also essential to repair and rebuild tissue. Without rest the body will weaken and the mind will become sluggish – conditions that dramatically increase the risk of soccer injuries.
Do Yourself a Favour
You don’t want to spend the season on the sidelines, and you certainly don’t want the pain and disability that result from injury. Do your body a favour – strengthen it with a soccer-oriented training program, warm-up before matches and training sessions, wear appropriate, well fitting equipment, play in a safe environment and warm-down after exertion.
By following these rules you’ll stand a better chance of spending your Saturdays on the pitch, rather than in the A & E ward nursing a soccer injury.
To learn more about conditioning to prevent ACL injury check out this video.