Strengthening is Essential
Whether you play for an organized team or enjoy playing recreationally, there are considerable injury risks when it comes to soccer. According to the AAOS, doctors treat more than 447,500 soccer-related injuries per year.
Safe, age-appropriate strength and conditioning has been shown to reduce injury by up to 50%. Conditioning programs should focus on strengthening the core and legs.
Protect those knees! The ACL is a devastating target for injury, particularly in females. In fact, studies show that females are 2-8 times more likely to injure their ACL. Building up trunk, hip and leg muscle strength, particularly the stability of the hip, hamstrings and groin is essential for preventing injury. Additionally, proper control and technique when jumping and quickly changing directions can mean the difference between injury and a safe season.
Always warm-up all of the sport-specific major muscles prior to playing. A proper warm-up increases muscle, joint and soft-tissue flexibility, reducing injury risk and enhancing sport performance.
An excellent warm-up program designed to prevent injury, specifically ACL injury, that was designed specifically for soccer athletes and only takes about 15 minutes can be found at: smsmf.org/smsf-programs/pep-program
This warm-up program should be incorporated into all practices and prior to games. It has demonstrated promising results in preventing injury.
Shin guards protect the lower leg, which is the most common place for soccer injuries to occur. Shin guards should be worn at every practice and game.
You don’t have to get the latest and greatest soccer gear. When it comes to cleats, a supportive, good fit is imperative. It can be tempting to buy a size or two bigger just to make them last longer, but this works against the shoe’s ability to adequately support the foot and ankle.
Heads up on Headers
Current research cannot conclusively say whether repetitive heading has any future consequence, specifically with regard to functional brain impairment. The best advice is to keep players from heading the ball until they are able to demonstrate proper technique, muscle coordination and control of the head and neck. Generally, it is recommended that children under 10 refrain from heading the ball entirely.
The following resources may also be of help to you:
OrthoInfo - Soccer Injury Prevention
Santa Monica Sports Medicine Foundation – PEP program