Soccer is a great way to build endurance and stay fit, all while enjoying being a part of a team. But it does involve quick start-and-stop motions and physical contact. This can lead to injury. The risk should not keep you from playing, though. Soccer players just need to be aware of the risks and know what steps they can take to play as safely as they can.

1. Sprains

Sprains often happen to the ankle or knee. The pivoting and lateral movements of soccer lead to these injuries.

To lower this risk, always check the playing field before a game or practice. Do not play on fields that are uneven or have holes or rocks on them. Also, the right shoes and strength and balance training are the key to preventing sprains.

2. Strains

Muscle strains can be caused by:

  • Pulling a muscle too far in a direction it does not want to go
  • Contracting a muscle hard against resistance
  • Contracting a muscle hard when the muscle is not ready

The most common muscle strains in soccer happen in groin, hamstring, and quadricep muscles. A muscle strain will not 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 are common in soccer because of the constant stop and go movement or taking a longer stride than muscles can handle.

Good flexibility and strength can lower your risk of a 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 starts.

Wearing well-fitted cleats with the right spikes (longer spikes in softer turf and shorter spikes on dry, hard turf) may also help lower the risk.

3. Fractures

Most soccer-related fractures are in the lower extremities. Fractures often happen as a result of contact, so wearing protective gear like shin guards is a must.

4. Head Injury

Closed-head injury is most often the result of a collision between players or from not heading the ball properly.

Correct heading means using the forehead to contact the ball, the neck muscles to restrict head motion, and the leg muscles to move the body from the waist.

You may want to strengthen your neck muscles to get them ready 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 wear safety eyewear.

General Safety Tips

As with any sport, a good warm-up is needed to lower the risk of injury. Here are some warm up tips:

  • Cardio : Start with a few laps to get your heart rate up.
  • Stretching : Focus on the lower body and hips. Do not forget to stretch your neck gently.
  • Passing : Begin with short-distance passing, then move gradually into longer distance drives.
  • Shooting : Work up from lighter, shorter shots on net to harder shots.
  • Sprinting : Add in a few short distance sprints.

Other things to think about:

  • Wear cleats and shin guards that fit.
  • Take safety steps when playing in hot and humid weather.
  • Stay hydrated and follow a healthful diet.
  • Lower the risk of overuse injuries. Think about taking at least one season off each year.
  • Do not play when you are tired.
  • Pay attention to your body. If you feel pain, then limit your training time and intensity.
  • Talk to your trainer or doctor to learn more about other injuries and safety tips.
RESOURCES:

American College of Sports Medicine
http://www.acsm.org

United States Soccer Federation
http://www.ussoccer.com

CANADIAN RESOURCES:

The College of Family Physicians of Canada
http://www.cfpc.ca

Health Canada
http://www.canada.ca

REFERENCES:

Preventing soccer injuries. Stop Sports Injuries website. Available at: http://www.stopsportsinjuries.org/soccer-injury-prevention.aspx. Accessed June 23, 2021.

Soccer and the brain. University of Washington website. Available at: https://faculty.washington.edu/chudler/soccer.html. Accessed June 23, 2021.

Soccer injury prevention. American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons website. Available at: https://orthoinfo.aaos.org/en/staying-healthy/soccer-injury-prevention. Accessed June 23, 2021.

Last reviewed June 2021 by EBSCO Medical Review Board  Last Updated: 6/23/2021