Soccer is a great way to build endurance, improve speed, and stay fit, all while enjoying being a part of a team. However, soccer does involve quick start-and-stop motions and physical contact, which can lead to injury. Risk of injury is no reason not to play soccer, though. Soccer players just need to be aware of the risks and know what steps they can take to play as safely as possible.
To avoid unnecessary risk, always check the condition of the field before you play. Do not play on fields that are uneven or have holes or rocks on them. Also proper footwear and appropriate strength training are the key to prevention.
Muscle strains can be caused by:
The most common muscle strains in soccer occur with groin muscles, hamstrings, and quadriceps. A muscle strain won't send you to the emergency room, but it can be painful and can keep you off the field for a few days or weeks. Strains occur frequently in soccer due to constant stop and go movement, or taking a longer stride than muscles can handle.
Good flexibility and strength can lower your chances of muscle strain. Start with a warm up, then stretch the areas that are most likely to suffer a strain. Make sure that you are also doing strengthening exercises before the season begins.
Wearing well-fitted cleats with appropriate spikes (longer spikes in softer turf and shorter spikes on dry, hard turf) may also help prevent strains.
The majority of soccer-related fractures are also in the lower extremities . Fractures often occur as a result of contact, so wearing protective gear like shin guards is extremely important.
Closed-head injury is most often the result of a collision between players or from not heading the ball properly.
Correct heading involves use of the forehead to contact the ball, the neck muscles to restrict head motion, and the leg muscles to to propel the body from the waist.
You may want to consider strengthening your neck muscles to prepare them for heading. You can use your hand to provide resistance against your head. Then, use your neck muscles to turn your head right, left, forward, and backward. Wear a fitted mouth guard to protect your mouth and teeth. You may also want to consider protective eyewear.
As with any sport, a good warm-up is important to an injury-free soccer experience.
Other things to consider:
American College of Sports Medicine
United States Soccer Federation
The College of Family Physicians of Canada
Public Health Agency of Canada
Asken MJ, Schwartz RC. Heading the ball in soccer: what's the risk of brain injury? The Physician and Sportsmedicine . 1998;26(11).
Boden BP, Kirkendall DT, Garrett WE Jr. Concussion incidence in elite college soccer players. Am J Sports Med. 1998;26(2)238-41.
Metzl JD, Fleischer GR. Sports-specific concerns in the young athlete: soccer. J Pediat Care . 1999 April.
Ouellette J. Is heading safe? American Youth Soccer Organization website. Available at: http://www.ayso.org/resources/safety/is_heading_safe.aspx. Accessed January 28, 2013.
A report on knee injuries. US Youth Soccer website. Available at: http://www.usyouthsoccer.org/news/a_report_on_knee_injuries/. Accessed January 28, 2013.
Soccer and the brain. University of Washington website. Available at: http://faculty.washington.edu/. Accessed January 28, 2013.
Soccer injury prevention. Stop Sports Injuries website. Available at: http://www.stopsportsinjuries.org/soccer-injury-prevention.aspx . Accessed January 28, 2013.
Last reviewed January 2013 by Brian Randall, MD
Last Updated: 1/28/2013