Most Common Soccer Injuries
With summer right around the corner and a year of lockdown being put behind us, many of us are looking forward to summer sports. As it turns out, soccer is the most popular summer sport in the world. It is played by over 250 million players in more than 200 countries, and there are an estimated 3.5 billion soccer fans in the world. While the love of the game has certainly not died down in any game, the sporting world has been met with growing concern regarding safety. This is true in parents’ hesitation to enter their kids in sports and in fans’ concern for their favorite players.
Playing soccer is a helpful way to build endurance, improve speed, and enhance fitness. Even though all of that is true, there are certain aspects about soccer and certain positions in the game that are not the safest. Although every sport has risks, there are a few factors that will make you want to be extra careful when you hit the field. We are not discouraging anyone from playing the game; our goal is simply to educate players and potential players of the risks involved and inform them of how to care for their bodies despite these risks.
Unsurprisingly, the most dangerous time to play soccer is actually during a game rather than during practice. In fact, according to the NCAA, soccer players are more than three times as likely to become injured during a game than in practice. Soccer is a no-contact sport, and it is not necessarily aggressive, which is reflected in the instances of injuries. Soccer players are most commonly injured during non-contact moves like changing direction or running.
What might come as a surprise is that the most dangerous position in soccer is goalkeeper, but it is not necessarily the position with the most injuries. According to a study published in the Orthopedic Journal of Sports Medicine, the percentage of injuries per player for those in the forward position is 14%, and the percentage of injuries per player for goalkeepers is 10.8%.
However, the injuries for those in the goalkeeper position tend to be more severe. It is common for goalies to develop hip and groin-related problems because of the mechanical and rotational movements needed to play the position. Ankle and knee injuries are also common in goalkeepers, and unlike many other positions, they are also vulnerable to being injured by ground contact, which can happen when trying to save goals and colliding with goalposts. In terms of forwards and other positions, there are a few injuries that seem to be the most common, including the following:
- Ankle sprain
During soccer, inversion with plantarflexion, meaning an individual turns the toes in while pointing them down, happens often. This looks a lot like a player simply kicking the ball on the top of their foot, but the effects can be devastating. Ankle sprains happen when the ligaments that support the ankle stretch or tear. These injuries can range in severity from mild to serious depending on the level of damage.
- Knee sprain
Soccer players are no strangers to knee injuries. Knee injuries can be brought about by hard tackles, bad falls, or from resisting being forced to the ground. One player might sprain a knee by stopping abruptly or switching direction quickly with one foot planted, and another player might sprain their knee when their foot is planted and another player falls into the knee. If you have a sprained knee, it means the components of the knee joint that connect the thigh bone to the shin are injured.
- Calf strains
In general, calf strains are common when an individual is performing high speed motions like running or jumping, which means that soccer is no exception. Calf strains can also happen due to awkward movement. Your calf is made up of two muscles: the gastrocnemius muscle and the soleus muscle, and they are prone to injury when overstretched. Like many injuries, treatment for a calf strain can range from resting at home for a minor strain to medical supervision for a major strain or tear.
- Clavicle fracture
Clavicle fractures are quite painful and unfortunately, quite common in soccer players. The clavicle is actually one of the most fractured bones in the body. Symptoms of a clavicle fracture include pain and swelling at the site of the injury.
- Foot fracture
Stress fractures happen frequently to soccer players, especially in weight-bearing bones like the foot or the leg. Repetitive stress weakens the bone and begins to break it down. Traumatic fractures usually occur at the ankle bones and metatarsal fractures are caused by a direct blow or impact to the foot.
- Wrist fracture
Wrist fractures are quite common in soccer, especially young soccer players. The most common fracture is the green stick or buckle fracture at the end of the radius bone near the wrist. This injury is typically treated with a short arm cast for about a month.
- Meniscal tear
Meniscal tears tend to occur with severe knee sprains. If pain and loss of function are severe, it is essential to make sure the individual does not walk on the injured leg and splints the knee in a comfortable position. When your meniscus is torn, you might be limited by any of the previous symptoms.
As many as 22% of soccer injuries are concussion, according to the Division of Pediatric Neurosurgery Rady Children’s Hospital of San Diego. More than a quarter of individuals have experienced one or more concussions while playing soccer. A head injury can cause bleeding in the brain, and athletes who continue to play immediately after sustaining a concussion run the risk of secondary impact syndrome, so it is essential for proper rest and care to be taken in these instances.
- Kneecap bursitis
During soccer, it is common for players to experience direct trauma to the knee, which can cause an injury known as kneecap bursitis. Players develop pain and inflammation in the pes anserine bursa, which is situated on the inner side of the knee below the joint. Knee bursitis will often heal by itself as long as it is not caused by an infection. Treating kneecap bursitis involves resting the affected joint area and protecting it from further damage, so it often means that the player will need to take some time off from the sport.
At ProFysio Physical Therapy, we are passionate about helping athletes get back in the game and get back to playing the sport they love. We do not deliver a generic treatment protocol. Instead, we deliver focused sports therapy treatments that are customized to meet the specific needs of each athlete and patient who enters our doors. We will work closely with any medical teams, coaches, and other trainers who might be involved in the healing process to make sure our players are healed and ready to play once more.
To learn more about sports physical therapy or other services at ProFysio Physical Therapy, give us a call at (732) 812-5200 or contact us online.