Already the most popular international team sport, soccer is also the fastest growing team sport in the United States. With more people playing soccer, it is not surprising that the number of soccer-related injuries is increasing. Although soccer provides an enjoyable form of aerobic exercise and helps develop balance, agility, coordination, and a sense of teamwork, soccer players must be aware of the risks for injury. Injury prevention, early detection, and treatment can keep kids and adults on the field long-term.
The most common injuries in soccer that impact healing time are ankle/knee ligament injuries and muscle strains to the hamstrings and groin. These injuries may be traumatic, such as a kick to the leg or a twist to the knee, or result from overuse of muscles of tendons. Cartilage tears and anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) sprains in the knee are some of the more serious injuries that may require surgery.
Proper preparation is essential for preventing injuries from playing soccer. Here are some tips:
- Warm up and stretch. Always take time to warm up and stretch. In order to increase your flexibility and decrease the likelihood of injury, there are number of stretching methods you can use:
- Dynamic soccer stretching – Often used at the beginning of a warm up. Making circles with the arms to loosen the shoulders, twisting from side to side and swing each leg as if kicking a ball are examples of dynamic stretching.
- Static soccer stretching – Muscles are stretched without moving the limb or joint itself. A good example of a static stretch is the traditional quad stretch – standing on one leg, you grab your ankle and pull your heel into your backside.
- Maintain fitness. Be sure you are in good physical condition at the start of soccer season. During the off-season, stick to a balanced fitness program that incorporates aerobic exercise, strength training, and flexibility.
- Hydrate. It’s important to make sure you get the right amount of water before, during, and after exercise. Water regulates your body temperature and lubricates your joints. If you have not had enough fluids, your body will not be able to effectively cool itself through sweat and evaporation. You may experience fatigue, muscle cramps, dizziness and more serious symptoms, all of which can increase the likelihood of injury.
- Ensure Proper Equipment. Wear shin guards to help protect your lower legs, as leg injuries are often caused by inadequate shin guards. You should wear the proper cleats depending on conditions, such as wearing screw in cleats on a wet field with high grass.
- Prevent Overuse. Limit your amount of playing time. Adolescents should not play just one sport year round — taking regular breaks and playing other sports is essential to skill development and injury prevention.
- Cool down and stretch. Stretching at the end of practice is too often neglected because of busy schedules. Stretching can help reduce muscle soreness and keep muscles long and flexible. Be sure to stretch after each training practice to reduce your risk for injury.
At Emory Sports Medicine Center, our team of specialists is constantly conducting research and developing new techniques for diagnosing and treating the full range of sports-related injuries. Whether you are a professional athlete, or simply enjoy an active lifestyle, Emory provides comprehensive care, in a patient–family- centered environment, so together we achieve the best possible outcome and you can return to the sport you love. To schedule an appointment, call 404-778-3350 or complete our online appointment request form.
About Dr. Olufade
Oluseun Olufade, MD, is board certified in Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation and Interventional Pain Medicine. He completed fellowship training in both Interventional Pain Medicine and Sports Medicine. During his fellowship training, he was a team physician for Philadelphia Union, a major league soccer (MLS) team, Widener University Football team and Interboro High School Football team.
Dr. Olufade employs a comprehensive approach in the treatment of sports related injuries and spinal disorders by integrating physical therapy, orthotic prescription and minimally invasive procedures. He specializes also in concussion, tendinopathies and platelet rich plasma (PRP) injections. He performs procedures such as fluoroscopic-guided spine injections and ultrasound guided peripheral joint injections. Dr. Olufade individualizes his plan with a focus on functional restoration.
Dr. Olufade has held many leadership roles including Chief Resident, Vice-President of Resident Physician Council of AAPM&R, President of his medical school class and Editor of the PM&R Newsletter. He has authored multiple book chapters and presented at national conferences.