Long sprints and hard kicks, coupled with intermittent obstacles such as an opponent's cleat careening toward your calf, pose real dangers on the soccer field even at the recreational level, suggests a new study.
In fact, New Zealand researchers found that about half of all community soccer players sustained injuries at least once over the course of a season. Many were on the receiving end of a slide tackle.
"It is important to understand the number and type of injuries that are occurring in a sport so effective injury prevention strategies can be developed and evaluated," lead researcher Bronwen McNoe of Dunedin School of Medicine, in New Zealand, said.
Soccer is popular
Soccer is one of the most popular team sports in New Zealand, she added. And her country is not alone. An estimated 265 million people play soccer worldwide, and most participate recreationally.
Yet, despite its popularity, very little was known about soccer injuries at lower levels.
Borrowing an injury surveillance strategy from rugby, McNoe and her colleague David Chalmers attempted to fill in this gap by monitoring 880 recreational soccer players during one winter season. The players were between 13 and 59 years old. Each player was interviewed weekly by phone to determine if they had sustained any injuries in the prior week's practices or games.
At season's end, they found that 47% of players had suffered an injury at least once in games and 14% were injured one or more times during practices.
For every 100 games played, this translated into six injuries, report the researchers in the American Journal of Sports Medicine. Another 1.3 injuries occurred for every 100 soccer practices.
Sprains and strains to the lower limbs sidelined the most players. And a quarter of the game injuries were reported as resulting from a foul play, such as a dangerous slide tackle.
On average, more females suffered injuries than males.
Overall rates among these community-level athletes were also generally higher than those reported for elite soccer players, note the researchers, although the counting of injuries in these other studies differed.
The new findings offer important information to coaches, said Chalmers. "They are going to have to cope with around half of their players being unavailable at some time during the season," he said.
"This may be an incentive to implement injury prevention measures that increase the availability of players throughout the season," Chalmers added.
He and McNoe are currently working on a follow-up study investigating prevention measures.
"Injury affects the performance of teams at all levels of soccer," Chalmers noted. "Staying injury free through adherence to injury prevention measures is one way in which a player can contribute positively to the performance of the team." (Reuters Health/ September 2010)
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