Common Soccer Injuries

Soccer is the 5th most common sport among youth and continues to grow in popularity across the United States. The availability and competition of leagues and school, the sport is growing to a year round sport with minimal off time. With the increase in frequency of play and practice, so to does the opportunity for injury. It can be tough for an athlete to experience an injury. During the times of the current pandemic it can be difficult for the athlete to navigate the injury and rehabilitation process. This article will help to provide some to the basic knowledge of soccer injuries and give advice on when it may be necessary to seek medical are.

What are the Most Common Soccer Injuries?

knee injuries are one of the top five most common soccer injuriesKnee injuries are one of the most common soccer injuries

The quick answer, the 5 most common soccer injuries include:

  1. Ligament injuries
  2. Shin splints
  3. Strains
  4. Sprains
  5. Concussion

Most soccer injuries result from a sudden twisting movement, collision, blow or tackle, and/or a fall or incorrect landing from an explosive jump or kick. It is important to have a brief understanding of each of the above injuries to understand the signs and symptoms to monitor for and the correct course of treatment.

Ligament Injuries in Soccer

Ligament injuries are common soccer injuriesLigament injuries are common soccer injuries

Ligament injuries usually occur due to twisting, pivoting, cutting and quick change of directions which are all very common movements associated with soccer. These movements can lead to the partial or complete tearing of the ligament.. 

The 2 most common ligaments injured in soccer are the MCL, medial collateral ligament, and the ACL, anterior cruciate ligament.

  • The MCL runs on the inside of the knee to connect the femur and tibia to prevent the knee from bowing inward. If the MCL becomes injured the athlete will present with swelling, pain located along the inside of the knee, tenderness, bruising, and difficulty with bending and straightening the knee.
  • The ACL runs within the knee joint from the femur to tibia to limit forward movement of the tibia. If the ACL becomes injured the athlete will present with swelling, knee pain primarily described as "in the knee," loss of motion with bending or straightening the knee, instability with putting weight on the leg, and tenderness. It can be hard to distinguish between the two injuries and often times an ACL injury will present with an MCL injury and due to an overlap in symptoms it may require imaging to differentiate the damage.

Shin Splints in Soccer

shin splints are one of the most common soccer injuriesA common soccer injury is shin splints

Shin Splintsare known as stress fractures to the tibia. They are a result of repetitive impact activity such as running and jumping. Due to ongoing seasons, soccer players tend to have minimal time to heal from the repetitive trauma resulting in stress fractures, or micro-fractures in the bone.  The symptoms associated with shin splints are pain in the shin and tenderness to touch along the front of the shin. The pain increases with activity and decreases with rest. The pain is usually described as a dull aching pain.

Muscle Strains

Strains are injuries to the muscle or tendons caused by overuse, force or aggressive stretch. The symptoms of a strain include sudden sharp pain in the affected muscle, bruising and/or discoloration, swelling and weakness.

Ligament Sprains

Sprains are injuries to the ligament, most commonly knee and ankle, that result from a twisting or tearing of the fibers. The symptoms associated with a sprain include immediate pain, swelling, bruising, tenderness and difficulty walking.

Concussions in Soccer

Concussions are common with soccer due to both contact with the ball and collisions with opponents. A concussion is described as a trauma to the brain resulting from a blow to the head. The symptoms of a concussion can include headache, confusion, lack of coordination, memory loss, nausea/ vomiting, dizziness, sleepiness, ringing in the ears and/or excessive fatigue. It is important to seek medical attention when  a trauma occurs to the head. If the athlete continues to play following a head trauma, it can result in a secondary head trauma and may lead to permanent brain damage.

For more information on concussions read this ARTICLE.

How to Prevent Common Soccer Injuries

stretching helps prevent common soccer injuriesStretching helps prevent common soccer injuries

There are certain things that can be done to help prevent injuries. Maintaining fitness with a balanced fitness program including aerobic exercise, strength training, and stretching can help to keep both the muscle strength and length balanced to aid with dynamic stability with sport activities. It is important to take the time to stretch and warm up prior to activity and after activity. Attempting to start playing with cold muscles predisposes the muscle to injury due to the inability for it to give due to inadequate blood flow. The athlete should always stretch again after play to allow a cool down transition. Stretching, especially in youth, can be equally as important as strengthening to avoid pulling and tension at the attachment sites along side with the athlete developing and growing.

 Protective gear is designed for a reason. It is important to wear the appropriate equipment while playing. Shin guards help decrease the possibility of bone trauma to the tibia due to frequency of contact by the ball and opponents. The correct cleats are important to help prevent injury. Shoes with molded cleats or rubber soles are advised. It is also important to wear the correct cleats depending on the surface of play. Incorrect cleats on turf can increase the chance of a knee injury, most often times an ACL injury. 

A recent dilemma in the game of sports is the ever-growing tendency to be active in the sport all year round. Many athletes are playing on school and club teams with multiple seasons and increasing playing time. The lack of off season time is leading to more prevalent overuse injuries and injuries due to imbalance of strength, flexibility and recovery time. It is important to listen to the body and take time to allow the body to recover from continuous forces. The off time should be used to focus on balancing strengthening, stretching and stabilization that is not targeted specifically during in season play.

How to Treat Common Soccer Injuries

sprains are a common soccer injury. icing will help with pain and swellingRICE method is recommend for common soccer injuries

If the athlete sustains a sprain or strain injury the first course of treatment would include the RICE method: Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation to decrease swelling and pain. It may also be suggested to manage pain and swelling with non-steroidal anti-inflammatories depending on the age and no known allergies to medications. 

If the pain persists and/or the athlete is unable to bear weight on the injured extremity following a trial of RICE, then it may be advised to seek medical care. This is to rule out additional injury and perhaps the need for immobilization or restricted weightbearing for a short period of time to allow for proper healing.
If the athlete is experiencing shin splints due to overuse, the first rule of treatment is to rest and restrict the amount of impact to allow for bone healing. 

Stretching the calf muscles aid with proper tension and avoiding pulling in the lower limb. Ice can be applied to the affected area to decrease inflammation, especially after activity. Proper fitting shoes as well as inserts may be suggested to aid with proper impact to the lower extremity with activity. If the pain persists and/or the athlete begins to show signs of limping with activity, then it may be advised to seek medical care to determine if immobilization and extended hold on sport and activity is needed to allow for proper bone healing.

Ligament injuries, most commonly to the knee, in soccer can be both tricky and frustrating with treatment. If the athlete is unable to bend or straighten the knee without pain, walk without pain, or complains of instability or pain in the knee with certain movements, it may be necessary to seek medical care to determine the extent of the ligamentous injury and determine which structures are involved to provide guidance on limitations, restrictions and course of treatment.

If the athlete experiences any type of head trauma, concussion, it is important to seek medical care for an evaluation of the extent of the trauma. Depending on the severity of the concussion and the length of the symptoms, the doctor or athletic trainer will determine the length of hold on sport and other additional modifications of stimulus, such as restricting bright lights and loud noises.

When Should You See a Physical Therapist?

Physical therapy can help with common soccer injuriesJOI Sports Rehab can help in the recovery of common soccer injuries

Physical therapy has become a helpful tool in the recovery of injuries and the aid with return to sport. Physical therapy may be prescribed by a physician with any of the above injuries to aid with the recovery of the tissues and with guidance with return to play. The physical therapist will evaluate the athlete and determine if there are any mobility and strength deficits associated with the injury then develop a course of treatment that may be able to be performed at home or under guidance of the physical therapist or athletic trainer to expedite the recovery process and provide appropriate time frames for restrictions, immobilizations, and sport activities. Read this ARTICLE to learn about JOI's sports rehab program.

If you want to read more about the biomechanics of baseball, please read this article. 

By Amanda Garland DPT, ATC

From the Jacksonville Jaguars to the Weekend Warrior, JOI helps with all of your orthopedic and sports injury needs.  Go Where the Pros Go!!  Call 904JOI-2000, schedule online or click below to book an appointment!  Avoid the emergency room during the pandemic and give JOI a call with your Orthopedic Injury.

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