Sports Injuries

16 January 2017

Tips for preventing soccer injuries

Children playing soccer most often sustain only minor injuries, but here are a number of steps to avoid more serious injuries.

As children's soccer becomes more popular in the United States, soccer-related injuries are also becoming more common, the American Academy of Paediatrics (AAP) says.

People can get hurt playing soccer if they collide with other players, the ground or a goalpost. Injuries can also occur while running, twisting, shooting and landing, the AAP explained.

Read: Delayed treatment for concussion may prolong recovery

Children who are injured while playing soccer most often sustain sprains and strains. Bruises are also common. These soccer-related injuries are usually minor and can be treated with basic first aid and up to a week of rest, the AAP advised.

Common soccer-related injuries

  • Ankle and knee injuries: Boys sustain more ankle injuries, while knee injuries – particularly anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tears – are more common among girls. These injuries can result from sudden stops or turns.
  • Heel pain: This may occur due to irritation of the growth plate of the heel bone. This common injury can be treated with ice, anti-inflammatory medications, calf stretches and limited running. Children with heel pain may also benefit from wearing heel cups or arch supports.
  • Head injuries: Concussions are a common soccer-related injury. Players can sustain a concussion after colliding with another player or hitting the ground. These injuries may or may not cause a player to lose consciousness. All concussions are serious injuries that temporarily affect brain function and require immediate medical attention.
  • Mouth, face and teeth injuries: Soccer is a common cause of these injuries. Using a mouthguard can offer some protection.
  • Eye injuries: These injuries are rare in soccer but they could cause damage to the eye globe or the eye socket. All soccer players should use protective glasses or goggles made from polycarbonate or a similar material that conforms to the standards of the American Society for Testing and Materials.

Read: Most serious eye injuries are caused by falls and fights

Steps to avoid injuries

Soccer injuries could also be prevented by encouraging young people to play fairly and abide by the rules of the game, the AAP pointed out. The group adds that soccer-related injuries can also be avoided by taking the following steps:

  • Wear cleats with sufficient heel and arch support and grip.
  • Use soccer balls that are water-resistant, sized by age group, and properly inflated.
  • Engage in preseason training to develop conditioning and balance.
  • Encourage players to limit aggressive behaviour.
  • Ensure good field conditions, such as even playing surfaces without holes or irregularities.
  • Secure goal posts to the ground at all times – even when not in use. 
  • Teach proper heading techniques at the appropriate ages and avoid excessive heading drills to reduce the risk of injury.

Read More:

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Ask the Expert

Sports Injuries Expert

Adrian Rotunno is a medical doctor in the Sports & Exercise Medicine fellowship at the Sports Science Institute of South Africa, and qualified physiotherapist. Team physician for Dimension Data pro-cycling, and Boland Rugby. Special interests include endurance sport, in particular cycling, as well as contact sports.

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