Athletes who play hard are likely to suffer some bumps and bruises from time to time, but thankfully, most soccer-related injuries tend to be minor. “Because soccer players run on grass, repetitive injuries tend to be fewer compared to sports played on hard surfaces,” said Dr. Michael Landers, D.O., a family practice physician and sports medicine specialist on the Medical Staff of Texas Health Center for Diagnostics & Surgery in Plano. But soccer players do sometimes take a fall, kick to the leg, or a twist to the knee. Knees, ankles and heads are the body parts most susceptible to injury among soccer players, Dr. Landers said, and bruises are the most common type of injury. The good news: Most bruises don’t require a trip to the doctor. They’re “self-limiting” – that’s medical speak for “will heal on their own.” “With some ice and some padding, you can usually keep playing with a bruise,” Dr. Landers said.
Other Common Injuries
Other common soccer injuries affecting the lower extremities are sprains and strains, which are usually manageable without medical intervention. Fractures, cartilage tears and anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injuries, however, may require surgery. Common overuse injuries involving the lower extremities include shin splints (soreness in the calf), patellar tendinitis (pain in the knee) and Achilles tendinitis (pain in the back of the ankle).
The most common injuries affecting the upper extremities are wrist sprains, wrist fractures and shoulder dislocations, usually caused by fall on an outstretched arm, or by player-to-player contact. Head injuries can affect soccer players, especially those who do a lot of “heading” of the ball.
Watch Out for Concussions
“We see 3-4 soccer-related concussions a week,” Dr. Landers said. Anytime a blow to the head causes a headache, confusion or dizziness, that’s a sign that medical attention is needed. With head injuries, always err on the side of caution, he adds.
To help minimize injuries, Dr. Landers encourages players to make sure their shoes and other equipment is properly fitted. Good training is key, too – strengthening the neck muscles, for example, can reduce the ‘whiplash’ effect that can lead to head injuries. Also, be sure to do a thorough, dynamic warm-up before every game or practice. Finally, contact your doctor for any injury that doesn’t improve after a few days.