Although many soccer injuries involve the legs and lower extremities, other body areas are susceptible to injury/s as well. Acute or cumulative is how soccer injuries are generally described. Acute injuries are traumatic. They are usually caused by a slip, trip, and fall, getting hit, and crashing into other players. Cumulative injuries involve repetitive stress on a muscle, joint, or connective tissue. This triggers progressive aches, pain, and physical impairment that worsen with time. Understanding how and why they happen is the first step in injury prevention. The more common injuries experienced among soccer athletes include.
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This is a mild traumatic brain injury mTBI caused by a sudden hit/impact to the head. Players are trained to head the ball; however, concussions can happen if not ready for impact or heading at an awkward position.
Ankle sprains are when there is stretching and tearing of ligament/s that surround the ankle joint.
- Lateral ankle sprains or outside of the ankle can happen when a player kicks the ball with the top of the foot.
- A medial ankle sprain or inside of the ankle can happen when the toes are turned out when the foot is flexed up.
This chronic injury occurs from overuse with pain in the back of the ankle. Players constantly perform repetitive and sudden movements that, over time, can cause this type of injury.
Achilles Tendon Rupture
A rupture involves a partial or complete tear of the Achilles tendon. Often players say with a popping sound. This happens when players perform fast, explosive movements. Rapid stopping, starting, shifting, and jumping can all contribute.
This type of strain happens when the inner thigh muscles are stretched beyond their limit. As a result, a player can pull the groin when kicking and/or resistance from an opponent trying to take the ball or kick in the opposite direction.
These injuries involve the three back muscles of the thigh and can vary from minor strains to complete ruptures/tears. This comes from running, sprinting, jumping, and stopping, leading to these types of injuries.
Iliotibial Band Syndrome
This overuse/repetitive injury involves a tendon known as the IT band. This is the connective tissue that runs along the outside of the thigh. Constant running can create friction as the band gets pulled along the outside of the knee, which can cause tendonitis.
This causes foot pain caused by inflammation of the tissue bands that run from the heel to the toes. Several factors can cause the condition. This could be players using inappropriate or not correctly fitting shoes, shoes that do not provide proper arch support, or playing on a hard surface.
Calf Muscle Pull
This is when one of the lower leg muscles gets pulled from the Achilles tendon. Again, quick and spontaneous sprinting, running, or jumping is usually the cause.
The most common soccer injuries are those that involve the knee. This is because of the stopping and shifting directions quickly and suddenly. The explosive, spontaneous movements place extreme stress on the knees and the supporting ligaments. When the stress goes beyond the ligament’s limits, it can cause a sprain or tear in the joint. When there is an injury to the knee/s, it is diagnosed using a grading scale.
- Grade 1 Mild sprain
- Grade 2 Partial tear
- Grade 3 Complete tear
Patellofemoral pain syndrome, also known as runner’s knee, is a condition where the cartilage under the kneecap gets damaged from an injury or overuse. This happens when there is a misalignment in the knee and/or strained tendons.
The anterior cruciate ligament, or ACL, is at the front of the knee. These are the most common knee injuries. This is because the ligaments are less retractable than muscles or tendons. And those in the knees are highly vulnerable to damage.
Cruciate Ligament Injury
This type of injury does not always cause pain but often causes a popping sound when it happens. Pain and swelling develop within 24 hours. This is followed by the loss of range of motion and tenderness around and along the joint.
The Meniscus involves a C-shaped piece of cartilage that cushions the space between the femur and the shin bone. These tears are painful and are often the result of twisting, pivoting, decelerating, or quick/rapid impact.
The term describes various painful symptoms that develop in the front of the lower leg. This often happens from over/intense training, or the training gets changed. Players can also develop shin splints from training while not using appropriate shoes.
These types of fractures are usually the result of overuse or repeated impact on a bone. The result is severe bruising or a slight crack in the bone.
When tendons get inflamed, it is referred to as tendonitis. This comes with repetitive overuse but can also develop from a traumatic injury that causes micro-tears in the muscle fibers.
Soccer Injuries Prevention
Many of these injuries result from overuse, overtraining, improper conditioning, and/or not warming up properly. Here are a few tips to help reduce the risk.
Warm up for at least 30 minutes before playing
Pay special attention to stretching the:
- Achilles’ tendons
Wear protective gear
- Shin guards
- Kinesio tape
- Ankle supports
- Eye protection
- Ensure they are correctly sized and maintained.
Check the field
Check for anything that could cause injury/s. This includes:
- Broken glass
Avoid playing in bad weather
Or immediately after heavy rain when the field is especially slick and muddy.
Allow enough time to heal after an injury.
This also goes for minor soccer injuries. Trying too fast to get back increases the risk of worsening the injury, re-injury, and/or creating new injuries.
Athletes and Carb Loading
Carb loading is a strategy that athletes use.
Utilize carb-loading to help them increase energy storage for long runs, bike rides, swims, etc. When timed effectively, carb-loading has been shown to increase muscle glycogen, leading to improved performance.
Bodybuilders and fitness athletes
Use carbo-loading to build size and mass before competitions. The timing and efficacy of carb-loading vary from person to person. Make sure to experiment before the next big competition.
Fairchild, Timothy J et al. “Rapid carbohydrate loading after a short bout of near maximal-intensity exercise.” Medicine and science in sports and exercise vol. 34,6 (2002): 980-6. doi:10.1097/00005768-200206000-00012
Kilic O, Kemler E, Gouttebarge V. The “sequence of prevention” for musculoskeletal injuries among adult recreational footballers: A systematic review of the scientific literature. Phys Ther Sport. 2018;32:308-322. doi:10.1016/j.ptsp.2018.01.007
Lingsma H, Maas A. Heading in soccer: More than a subconcussive event. Neurology. 2017;88(9):822-823. doi:10.1212/WNL.0000000000003679
Pfirrmann D, Herbst M, Ingelfinger P, Simon P, Tug S. Analysis of Injury Incidences in Male Professional Adult and Elite Youth Soccer Players: A Systematic Review. J Athl Train. 2016;51(5):410–424. doi:10.4085/1062-6050-51.6.03
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