Common Soccer Injuries

Although safe compared to many sports, soccer carries risks. Athletes run the chance of sustaining a minor, major, or even debilitating long-term injury. It's the price we pay for having the confidence and courage to go for the goal, while enjoying the exercise the sport provides. Simple awareness and prevention can help you balance soccer's benefits with its risks.

Since soccer involves a lot of running, dribbling and kicking the ball with the feet, and playing it off the head, most soccer injuries involve the ankles, knees, and head. Occasionally, goalies will injure their hands or get kicked. Less common but worth mentioning, are the injuries that can occur from movable goals not being secured properly, and tipping over onto a player.

Soccer injuries are of two general kinds: acute or traumatic, and overuse. Both kinds can occur in either upper or lower parts of the body, though for soccer athletes, it most commonly happens in the lower extremities. An acute soccer injury can be caused by a sudden twisting of the knee, getting hit in the shins, or being slammed in the head by another player competing for a head shot. Many soccer players are familiar with overuse injuries, which are stress injuries caused by repeated use of muscles, bones, tendons, and connective tissues around the knees and ankles. Overuse injuries often begin as a minor ache or pain that progresses into a more serious long-term injury, if left untreated.

While we hope soccer players will love and practice the sport long-term, serious injuries can set in and limit mobility as certain moves begin to wear on the body. With awareness and a few preventive tips, players can be better prepared to take on the season, and hopefully play for many seasons to come.

Common lower body soccer injuries

Acute soccer injuries

Soccer players are vulnerable to traumatic lower-body injury in the ankles, knees and thighs.

Ankle injuries. Sprains and strains are the most common traumatic soccer injuries. Sudden tearing and stretching of ligaments around the ankles can be very painful and require medical attention.

Knee injuries. One of the most common soccer injuries is tearing of the cartilage and ligaments in and around the knees from all the sudden stopping, starting, jumping, and switching directions. Symptoms include swelling and inflammation, and pain can range from mild to severe.

Above-the-knee injuries. One injury fairly regular to soccer players and runners alike is the hamstring pull, marked by pain in the back of the thighs. Another is a pulled groin from sudden movements. Ample stretching and warm-ups should prevent these injuries.

Overuse soccer injuries

Dull pain and discomfort of muscles often goes unnoticed, since it doesn't involve an incident that sends a player to the emergency room. However, the long-term affects can be just as, if not more, debilitating. A few of the more common overuse injuries include tendinitis, shin splints, and stress fractures. Athletes experiencing any of these should seek the help of a doctor or sports physician.

Tendonitis. This is inflammation and weakness in the tendons and muscle fibers around a joint caused by tearing or stressing out the joint. Soccer players often get this in the knees and ankles. Patellar tendinitis is pain in the knee, and Achilles tendinitis is pain in the rear of the ankle.

Shin splints. Dull or general pain along the shin bone is caused by running on hard surfaces. If you play soccer on a hard surface or artificial turf, make sure you have the proper footwear. Taping the area can also help.

Stress fractures. Sometimes the bones become weak from overuse and can cause pain and swelling. It should not be confused with soft tissue injury. If you experience these symptoms, you can treat it as you would a soft tissue soccer injury. But if the pain persists, see your sports doctor!

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Common upper body soccer injuries

Head Injuries. Sometimes soccer players are hit in the head going for a head shot. Statistically, more concussions come from playing soccer than from any other contact sport, including American Football! Because soccer player don't wear helmets, routinely performing headers can make soccer players vulnerable to serious head or neck injury, particularly if they aren't practicing proper heading techniques. Please practice correct heading techniques, and wear some kind of protection, such as a skull cap, if you are recovering from a prior injury.

Finger injuries. Before goalie gloves, goalkeepers often injured their fingers during a game. Most, if not all, goalies today wear some sort of finger protection. Most goalie gloves include extra padding in the palms and undersides of the fingers, and built-in plastic spines to stabilize the fingers.

Movable soccer goals

Injury and even death have occurred from movable soccer goals not being anchored properly and tipping over onto players.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission offers the following tips for preventing injury from soccer goals:

  • Securely anchor movable goals
  • Never climb on movable goals
  • Instruct soccer players how to safely handle movable soccer goals
  • Use movable soccer goals on level land only
  • Check connecting hardware before uses, and replace damaged parts
  • Make sure safety labels can be seen
  • Remove nets while soccer goals are not in use
  • Anchor soccer goals when not in use
  • Completely disassemble goals and store them between seasons

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Soccer injury prevention tips

  • Be in good physical condition
  • Develop and encourage proper techniques
  • Warm up amply before and after games and practices
  • Wear properly-fitting protective gear; extra protection if necessary
  • Keep the soccer field in good condition
  • Communicate with your teammates, use good common sense
  • See a sports doctor if you experience recurring aches and pains

Soccer is generally safe, though you run risks every time you play. Though it's important to play fearlessly and confidently, don't put yourself and others at risk of an injury that could easily be avoided. Stay prepared, be informed about the potential risks, and have a safe and successful soccer season!

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