By Aaron Vaughan, MD
Primary Care Sports Medicine
For both youth and adult players, soccer is an enjoyable, team-centric pastime. But before you hit the pitch, here are 10 ways you can prevent injury, as well as treatment for the most common perpetrators.
Given that soccer is a high energy, semi-contact sport, not all injuries are completely preventable. However, below are ten measures that can be taken to ensure the greatest potential for success for every athlete on the field.
- Have a preseason physical examination* and follow your doctor’s recommendations, and speak with a sports medicine professional or athletic trainer if you have any concerns about injuries or prevention strategies.
- Use well-fitting cleats and shin guards — there is some evidence that molded and multistudded cleats are safer than screw-in cleats.
- Be aware of poor field conditions that can increase injury rates.
- Use properly sized synthetic balls — leather balls that can become waterlogged and heavy are more dangerous, especially when heading.
- Watch out for mobile goals that can fall on players and request fixed goals whenever possible.
- Hydrate adequately — waiting until you are thirsty is often too late to hydrate properly.
- Pay attention to environmental recommendations, especially in relation to excessively hot and humid weather, to help avoid heat illness.
- Maintain proper fitness — injury rates are higher in athletes who have not adequately prepared physically. After a period of inactivity, progress gradually back to full-contact soccer through activities such as aerobic conditioning, strength training and agility training.
- Overtraining may occur by not allowing for adequate rest. Consult your sports medicine specialist on how to train intelligently and when to take breaks throughout the weak, sports season and year.
- Listen to your body and decrease training time and intensity if pain or discomfort develops. This will reduce the risk of injury and help avoid “burnout.”
Risk and Common Injuries
Injuries to the lower extremities are the most common in soccer. These injuries may be traumatic in nature, such as a kick to the leg or a twist to the knee, or result from overuse of a muscle, tendon or bone.
- Lower Extremity Injuries – Sprains and strains, cartilage tears, anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) sprains and tears
- Overuse Lower Extremity Injuries – Shin splints (soreness in the calf), patellar tendinitis (pain in the knee), Achilles tendinitis (pain in the back of the ankle), groin pulls, thigh and calf muscle strains, and stress fractures
- Upper Extremity Injuries – Usually occur from falling on an outstretched arm or from player-to-player contact–these include wrist sprains, wrist fractures and shoulder dislocations
- Head, Neck and Face Injuries – Cuts and bruises to the head, neck and face, as well as concussions – an alteration in an athlete’s mental state due to head trauma, which should always be evaluated by a medical provider. Keep in mind that not all who experience a concussion lose consciousness.
Overuse injuries, such as those listed above, can often be treated with a short period of rest, meaning the athlete can continue to perform or practice some activities with modifications. For a proper diagnosis and treatment of any soccer-related injury that doesn’t improve after a few days of rest, you should contact a sports medicine provider.
*Drs. Aaron Vaughan and Brent Fisher are actively accepting weekend warriors and athletes of all kinds at the Mission Orthopedic and Sports Medicine AOA Walk-In Clinic near Biltmore Park, Monday-Friday, 7:30 am – 4:30 pm, with a concussion clinic on Friday afternoons.