Common Soccer Injuries: Causes and Prevention
During the summer months, many children attend intensive soccer camps to get a leg up on the normal season competition. And, with the temperate Southern California weather, children play soccer nearly year-round and that increases their chance for injury. The experts in Children’s Hospital Los Angeles’ Sports Medicine Program work hard to keep children playing the sports they love and enjoying an active life style.
In light of the 2014 FIFA World Cup and growing number of soccer injuries, we reached out to Tracy Zaslow, MD, director, Sports Concussion Program and Children’s Orthopaedic Center Sports Medicine Program at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles to learn about common soccer injuries and prevention strategies. Here’s what she shared about:
- Cuts and bruises
- Heat-related illness
- Ankle Sprains
- ACL Sprains
A concussion is a mild injury to the brain that disrupts how the brain normally works.
- Collision of the head with goal post or another player’s arm, head, etc.
- Using improper form when heading the ball
- Always observe the rules of play keeping elbows down when going in for a header
- Use proper heading techniques:
- Prepare to head the ball by:
- Keep your eye on the ball.
- Place your body so that your forehead will meet the ball.
- Take a comfortable stance with knees bent.
- Keep your eyes open.
- Keep your mouth closed.
- Keep your chin tucked.
- Keep a rigid neck.
- Use your arms for balance.
- Contact the ball using the following techniques:
- Contact the ball with the forehead.
- Legs should propel the body from the waist to head the ball.
- Neck should be kept rigid.
- Follow through toward the target.
- Once you head the ball, put your body back into a position where you can then go to the next move.
- Prepare to head the ball by:
Cuts and bruises, most commonly on the lower extremity
- Contact with other players (e.g. getting kicked, tripping, falling)
- Make sure your child is wearing well-fitting shin guards.
Heat-related illness can range from heat cramps to heat stroke. Heat stroke, which is very serious, occurs when the body’s temperature rises rapidly to an excessively high degree (more than 104 degrees Fahrenheit) and the body is unable to cool down.
- Not being properly hydrated
- Tight fitting clothing
- Training too intensely without proper conditioning
- Hot and humid weather
- Training in the mid-day heat and sun
- Remind your child to drink water regularly before and during training. Avoid caffeine and sugary drinks, which can cause dehydration.
- Sports drinks containing electrolytes are recommended for training sessions or game play >1 hour.
- Train smart with gradual increases in activity over a number of weeks to achieve appropriate fitness.
- Encourage breaks and seek shade from the sun and heat.
- Avoid training in the middle of the day when the sun is the strongest and temperatures are highest.
Ankle sprains occur when one or more ligaments get stretched or torn; ligaments attach bones to other bones and stabilize the joints.
Causes (ankle sprains)
- Uneven ground (90 percent of ankle sprains are inversion ankle sprains from uneven playing field)
- A planted foot and sudden change in direction
Prevention (ankle sprains)
- Make sure your child is wearing well-fitting soccer cleats and consider a rigid ankle brace to provide extra support even as a preventative measure.
- Encourage your child to do ankle stability exercises
- Calf raises, single leg balancing on a stable surface (progress to unstable surface), eccentric calf stretches, single leg forward hops (stabilize at every landing) and side to side hops (stabilize at every ground contact).
- Practice postural control, which involves using core muscles and staying low while moving shifting on the soccer field.
The ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) is an important ligament in the knee that can become stretch, or torn.
Causes (ACL sprains)
- Direct blow to the front or sides of the knee
- Sudden change in direction or cutting on the field
- Planted foot and twisting or pivoting
- Sudden deceleration (slow down)
Prevention (ACL sprains)
- Make sure your child is strengthening the muscles around their hip with these exercises:
- Squats—Feet hips width apart, feet facing straight forward. Ask your child to imagine an invisible chair and to sit on it. As your child squats down make sure their knees are in good alignment with their feet and not collapse inward. Knees should not bend forward in front of their toes. Progress to single leg squats.
- Hip abduction—Clam Shell and Fire Hydrant exercises
- Clam shell—Your child should lie on their side with knees bent, feet together. Their belly button should be facing the side wall in front of them (not the ceiling). Hips are bent very slightly. Raise the top of knee towards the ceiling holding 1-2 seconds with feet together, then lower down (feet should not leave the ground). There should be no movement in their lower back.
- Fire hydrant—Your child should start with getting on their hands and knees. Place hands directly under shoulders and knees directly under hips. Keeping the knee bent, raise leg sideways and toward ceiling. Perform 3 sets of 15 repetitions. Rest 30 seconds between each set.
- Make sure your child is wearing well-fitting soccer cleats.
- Practice proper cutting technique and postural control, which involves using core muscles and staying low while moving shifting on the soccer field.
Now that you're armed with causes and prevention tips of common soccer injuries, you and your young athlete can work toward a happy and healthy soccer experience, and an active lifestyle for life!