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10 Common Soccer Injuries, Prevention and Treatment

Soccer Injuries Prevention and Treatment

Soccer injuries can occur from a single event like, colliding with another player, or may develop over a period of time.

As an athletic event, soccer is one of the most beloved and watched sports around the world, and is played by everyone from the very young to the very old.

Every four years, an estimated 3.5 billion people tune in to view the World Cup, which inspires people at all levels, from amateurs to professionals, to push themselves even harder on the pitch.

Like all other sports though, soccer injuries are inevitable.

Understanding how to prevent the most common soccer injuries or knowing the most effective treatment approaches for when they happen is key to staying off bench and in the game.

What are the Most Common Soccer Injuries?

Most common soccer injuries can be broken into two categories:

  • Acute injuries
  • Cumulative or overuse injuries

Acute soccer injuries stem from trauma, like a collision, a fall, or a blow to the body.

Cumulative or overuse soccer injuries are problems that occur from repeated stress on the joints, muscles, and soft tissues, like ligaments and tendons.

Here are 10 of the Most Common Soccer Injuries

1. Ankle Sprains or Tendonitis

Rolling the outer part of the ankle and foot beyond its normal range of motion is a general cause of most ankle sprains. This leads to damaged ligaments that create inflammation and pain.

Ankle tendonitis, known medically as peroneal tendonitis, can also occur when tendons in the joint become inflamed from overuse, poor running or sprinting technique, or untreated trauma to the ankle.

Tendonitis can lead to a decrease in stability, problems bearing weight on the ankle, and pain even when not using the ankle.

2. Runner’s Knee Soccer Injuries

Known as Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome, runner’s knee is a condition that causes pain in the front of the knee, in the area of the kneecap. Runner’s knee is typically caused by overuse related to continuous running, along with frequent jumps, and quick stops and starts in soccer.

Pain can range from mild to severe and may increase with activity. Movements like squats, jumps, or even simply walking up stairs are likely to cause pain.

Most Common Soccer Injuries

3. Achilles Tendonitis

The Achilles is the largest tendon in the body and attaches the calf muscle to the heel. Achilles Tendonitis can occur when the Achilles tendon becomes inflamed, irritated from overuse, or from an acute injury.

Pain and inflammation can limit a person’s range of motion and may cause discomfort when bearing weight.

In the early stages of Achilles tendonitis, pain may dissipate as the body warms-up, but it’s important not to ignore the early signs.

4. Illiotibial (IT) Band Syndrome

The Illiotibial or IT Band is a long band of soft tissue that runs from the hip to the knee on the outer leg and it helps stabilize the knee during physical activity. Excessive running can cause the IT band to come into contact with the leg bone, leading to inflammation.

When inflamed, iliotibial band syndrome can make the affected area tender to the touch, cause pain when bending the knee, or lead to sharp aches and pains above the knee, on the outside of the leg.

5. Concussion

Caused by a sudden impact to the head, concussions are a type of soccer injury most often caused by collisions between two players or a blow to the head by another player’s elbow or knee.

There’s also growing evidence that players using their head to direct the soccer ball can lead to a concussion, and many amateur leagues now prohibit or limit using the head to direct the ball.

6. Shin Splints

Caused by excessive running, particularly on harder surfaces or due to ill-fitting footwear, shin splints cause pain on the lower front of the leg, along the shinbone.

Dealing with shin splints can be painful due to the swelling and tenderness that runs up and down the shinbone. In most cases, continued activity will lead to increased discomfort.

7. Plantar Fasciitis

Along the bottom of the foot runs a thick layer of connective tissue that provides a type of spring cushion when people walk or run. This is known as the fascia. After years of running, the fascia can start to degenerate and become irritated, leading to plantar fasciitis.

Pain is generally felt under the mid-foot and into the heel, especially after prolonged periods of standing, walking or running. It may also be most painful in the morning when the foot has not been used or warmed up.

8. Turf Toe

Pushing off the big toe with force can irritate the ligaments around the big toe, especially in sports that require running and sprinting on artificial turf, like soccer. Running and jumping also places added stress in the same area that can lead to an injury known as turf toe.

A turf toe injury can cause swelling and stiffness around the toe, as well as instability and a limited range of motion. People generally feel pain when attempting to extend or bear weight on the big toe.

9. Hamstring Injuries (Tendonitis)

The hamstring runs along the back of the thigh from the hip to just below the knee, which makes it possible to bend the knee and extend the leg. Hamstring injuries can develop from micro-tears caused by overuse or strains from immediate trauma.

Injuries like Hamstring Tendonitis can start as a dull ache in the back of the leg, which may dissipate as the body warms up, but can lead to inflammation and pain if ignored.

In some cases, it may feel as if the back of the leg is weak or unstable, which can be an undiagnosed hamstring injury.

10. Stress Fractures

Hairline cracks in the bone, known as stress fractures, are typically caused by repetitive stress from running, sprinting and jumping, all of which are commonplace in soccer.

A stress fracture generally occurs in the top of the foot, the lower leg, and in the heel.

This injury can lead to tenderness, swelling, pain, and even bruising in the effected area. Early stress fractures may only be annoying at first, but if undiagnosed and untreated, they will worsen over time.

How to Prevent Soccer Injuries

Soccer injuries are not always avoidable, but there are steps athletes can take to decrease the likelihood of serious injury.

Some ways to prevent soccer injuries include:

  • Always warm up and stretch before sprinting
  • If possible, play on stable and even surfaces to avoid turf toe and sprains
  • Use proper footwear, taping, and in some cases braces to protect the joints
  • Incorporate an appropriate weight training regimen that improves strength in the muscles and joints
  • Practice proper running and sprinting techniques
  • Allow for rest and recovery days so the body can repair itself
  • Do not ignore nagging aches or pains as they may be a sign of an injury

When a soccer injury does occur, knowing the appropriate treatment method can also reduce time off the pitch.

Treatment Methods for Common Soccer Injuries

It’s important for soccer players to pay attention to their bodies and see a doctor when pain in any area persists outside of what seems like a healthy timeframe.

Diagnosing any type of common soccer injury will require a physical examination, information about recent activity, and possibly x-rays or an MRI so a physician can diagnose the soft-tissue, joints, or bones.

Treatment methods are likely to be conservative at first before resulting in more invasive ones.

Soccer Injury Treatment Methods

Common Soccer Injuries Treatment Approaches

1. The RICE Method

The RICE Method approach to treating soccer injuries is typically the first step when noticing soft-tissue or muscle pain. RICE is short for Rest, Ice, Compress, and Elevate.

This basic technique involves resting the injured area, applying ice to decrease inflammation and pain, using compression to stabilize the affected area, and elevating it to reduce pain and swelling.

2. Anti-Inflammatory Pain Medications

Over-the-counter, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory pain medications, like ibuprofen (Advil) or naproxen (Aleve) should be used as directed to help reduce pain and inflammation, while resting the injured area.

3. Physical Therapy

Physical Therapy may be appropriate for both acute and cumulative overuse soccer injuries. Physical therapists can help educate soccer players about proper form and technique, footwear, effective stretches, and warm-up exercises that will lessen the likelihood of continued injury.

PTs, in conjunction with coaches if appropriate, can also help suggest training regimens that will aid performance enhancement, and lessen the chances of continued injury.

4. Foot Brace or Walking Boot

A Foot Brace or a Walking Boot will help stabilize foot and ankle injuries while prohibiting movement during the healing and recovery stage.

They can be used with or without crutches and are ideal for soccer injuries like turf toe, stress fractures, ankle sprains, and others.

5. Foam Rollers

Foam Rollers can be an effective way to relax or loosen sore muscles and tendons from stress or injury. They act like a trigger point release for knots in muscles and work well for injuries to the feet and shins.

6. EPAT / Shockwave Therapy for Soccer Injuries

EPAT Therapy is a non-invasive, pain-free method of treating and healing a wide range of injuries and is popular with sports medicine doctors and professional trainers.

It is also known as Extracorporeal Shock Wave Therapy, or ESWT, because it delivers impulse pressure waves, called Shockwaves, which successfully treat and heal all types of injuries.

A Shockwave Machine produces pressure waves that are precisely directed at the area of the damaged tissue that caused the injury.

EPAT / Shockwave Therapy treatment increases blood flow to the injury, decreases inflammation, and creates new blood vessel growth, which speeds the healing and recovery process.

This treatment method can be used during the early stages of an injury, after surgery, or while undergoing physical therapy.

7. Cortisone Injections

If over-the-counter, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory pain medications don’t offer adequate relief, corticosteroid or cortisone injections may be needed to help reduce severe inflammation and swelling.

This is considered a more invasive treatment approach and should only be used as necessary for a short period of time because steroids can damage other healthy tissue in some cases.

8. Surgery

If many of the conservative, non-invasive treatment approaches are not effective, or a soccer injury is severe, surgery may be required. Even though many types of surgery are not extensive, it is still an invasive procedure that may require a lengthy recovery time.

9. Gradually Return to Playing

After recovery, it’s important to gradually return to training and competition. It’s natural for some people to rush back to the same levels of intensity he or she maintained before an injury, but it’s crucial to take it slow for at least a couple of weeks.

In severe cases of soccer injuries, it may be necessary to be medically cleared by a doctor before resuming normal activity levels.

Many of these treatment approaches will work well for most common soccer injuries, and they can be combined with each other to reduce pain and speed up healing and recovery.