Preventing Soccer Injuries

Unfortunately, injuries are a part of sports. Soccer challenges physical fitness by requiring a variety of skills at different intensities.

Running, sprinting, jumping and kicking are important performance components, requiring maximal strength & anaerobic power – therefore this physically demanding sport also has high injury rates.

Muscle and tendon injuries are actually much more common in soccer compared to bone contusions and fractures or joint and ligament injuries. When it comes to elite soccer players, studies reveal that the average time missed from playing is about 2 weeks while the burden of the injury can last up to 6 weeks. For amateurs it is probably more. Thus prevention is very important.

Sprains and strains are most commonly in the lower extremity injuries – with 50-80% of injuries in soccer affecting the lower limb (feet & legs). The severity of these injuries varies.

Shin splints (soreness in the calf), patellar tendinitis and Achilles tendinitis are some of the more common soccer overuse conditions we see. Soccer players are also prone to groin pulls and thigh and calf muscle strains. Ligament injuries to the ankle and knee are the most frequently encountered.

Access our PHYSIO's GUIDE on dealing with 9 of the most common Sporting Injuries

Factors for prevention strategies include.

Technique /Fatigue:

Players may increase intensity of play at the end of game, especially when motivated by a possible loss, leading to increased fatigue. The combination of increased intensity and fatigue often leads to more fouls, which injury studies have found to increase injury risk.

Warm up/proprioceptive training:

The purpose of a warm-up is to enhance performance by physiologically and psychologically preparing the body for competition while at the same time reducing the risk of injury.

Many specific injury prevention programs have been created – The soccer specific one is FIFA11+ and this has been demonstrated to show a 30% less overall risk of injury.

Football Boots in combination with playing surfaces

Shoes can differ significantly in terms of stud shape, length and position on the shoe outsole. Playing surface can be natural or artificial with subtle variations in both that can alter the traction forces and thus injury risk.

One common mechanism associated with injury is rotation on a planted foot coupled with high levels of traction at the shoe-surface interface. Studs become ‘trapped’ in the playing surface, with the resulting rotational forces shifted proximally to the ankle, knee or other joints.

High rotational traction is associated with a 2.5 times higher risk of injury to the lower extremities. Studies suggest turf shoes with several very short studs tend to have lower rotational traction forces and sand-based natural grass has higher force measures than soil-based natural grass surfaces.

Ankle Braces

Recent studies have shown that a semi rigid ankle brace significantly reduced the incidence of ankle sprains in players with a previous history of ankle sprains; and external ankle support can prevent ankle sprains during high risk sporting activities such as soccer, especially in individuals who have a previous history of ankle sprain. Ankle braces in combination with specific exercises seems to be very promising for reducing the risk of ankle injury.

Load management/overuse:

Playing multiple games in a short amount of time appears to be related to higher injury risk – particularly in younger athletes. Monitoring load and understanding the load and the things that can impact the ability to handle load

Strength/Power & Mobility Training:

In professional male soccer players, a 10-week strength training program (1–2 days/week) that emphasized an eccentric overload reduced the incidence of hamstring strains from 67% in the control group to 20% in the intervention group.

Some of the known risk factors for chronic groin pain include pelvic instability, adductor muscle imbalance, reduced hip join range of motion, delayed core stability, and previous groin injury – all of these risk factors can be eliminated through a specific exercise program

Click HERE for our download on specific Muscle Exercises to aid in the prevention of injuries

Predisposing factors:

A previous history of injury, sedentary lifestyle and hobbies are some of the factors that must be taken into consideration as well as load management to ensure decreased risk of further injury.

Key anatomical/biomechanical discrepancies:

Any side-to-side discrepancies and or weaknesses need to be taken into account. These may not have been previously identified but an assessment with our skilled physiotherapists can help with these issues.

Pre-season assessments:

The key to effective prevention of any injury is understanding its modifiable risk factors.A Physiotherapist with the knowledge of soccer training and performance and how they involve specific strength and flexibility, can help identify physical deficiencies that if left untreated may compromise performance or potentially cause injuries.

If you have any worries or just want to take a proactive move to prevent injuries make an appointment today to see one of our Physios who does extensive work with soccer players.

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