Injury Recovery and Prevention
Soccer injuries tend to be categorized as either traumatic (acute) injuries or overuse (chronic) injuries. Acute injuries are usually the result of a specific impact or traumatic event. Overuse injuries tend to have subtle or vague symptoms that develop slowly. They begin as a small, nagging ache or pain, and can grow into a debilitating injury if they aren’t treated early.
Overuse injuries are the result of repetitive use, stress and trauma to the soft tissues of the body (muscles, tendons, bones and joints) when there is not enough time for proper healing. They are sometimes called cumulative trauma, or repetitive stress injuries. Examples include tendonitis and shin splints.
Research shows that most injuries soccer players sustain are caused by trauma, either having collided with opponents or from landing awkwardly after jumping for the ball. Nearly one third of all injuries develop over a period of time, due to overuse or playing with slight injuries that develop into something more serious. It’s also been shown that older players are more liable to get injured, and female players suffer more injuries than males.
Most soccer injuries affect areas like the pelvis and groin, hip, thigh, calf, knee, foot and ankle. There are some very common injuries and by understanding how they are caused you may be able to help your players avoid injuries.
Some common soccer injuries
The most common of all ankle injuries, an ankle sprain occurs when there is a stretching and tearing of ligaments surrounding the ankle joint.
Achilles tendonitis is a chronic injury that occurs primarily from overuse and is felt as pain in back of the ankle.
A groin (adductor) pull or strain occurs when the muscles of the inner thigh are stretched beyond their limits.
Hamstring injuries are common among soccer players and can range from minor strains to total rupture of the muscle at the back of the thigh.
Delayed-Onset Muscle Soreness
“DOMS” – this muscle pain, stiffness or soreness occurs 24–48 hours after particularly intense exercise or a new program.
General best practise
Many soccer injuries may result from overuse, lack of proper rest, lack or proper warm ups or poor conditioning. The following safety precautions are recommended to help prevent soccer injuries:
- Warm up thoroughly prior to playing and training.
- Use injury prevention exercises such as core stability.
- Play to the rules of the game.
- Use protective equipment (i.e. shin pads).
- Use good technique.
- Make sure the playing area is risk-assessed.
- Have a first aid kit on hand.
- Make sure that the players are not over-training and that they sufficiently recovery time after training and matches.
- Stay hydrated.
Some tips on how to avoid common soccer injuries and rehabilitation
This can occur after strenuous activity or after a game, especially early on in the season.
How can it be avoided?
- Warm up thoroughly before activity and cool down completely afterward.
- Perform easy stretching after exercise.
- When beginning a new activity start gradually and build up your duration and intensity over time.
- Start a new weight lifting routine with light weights and high reps (10-12) and gradually increase the amount you lift over several weeks.
- Avoid making sudden major changes in the type of exercise you do.
- Avoid making sudden major changes in the amount of time that you exercise.
What you should do if you get DOMS?
- Avoid any vigorous activity that increases pain.
- Do some easy low-impact aerobic exercise – this will increase blood flow to the affected muscles, which may help diminish soreness.
- Use gentle stretching on the affected area.
- Gently massage the affected muscles.
When sprinting during a game the hamstring muscle can be stretched beyond its limit and the muscle tissue can be torn. A tear in a muscle is described as a strain and the level of severity is categorised as a first, second or third degree strain.
How can it be avoided?
- Warm up before training or matches.
- A good warm up should last a minimum of 20 minutes.
- Start gently with a couple of light stretching exercises and build up gradually until you finish at full pace activity.
- Any muscle injury should immediately be treated using the RICE method – rest, ice, compression and elevation. It’s important that you never apply ice directly on the skin as this can cause an ice burn. Use an ice bag if possible, or wrap the ice in a cloth or towel if you don’t have one.
- Your injury should be seen by a doctor, or a chartered physiotherapist.
- Depending on the severity of the injury, the leg must be rested from any sporting activity for between a couple of weeks or in a severe case up to three months. Your doctor will advise you on how long you need to rest the injury.
What should you do if you get a hamstring injury?
The sprained ankle is one of the most common injuries in soccer. It’s usually caused by twisting or turning the ankle inwards. This causes soft tissue damage mainly to the ligaments. The damage creates bleeding within the tissue and leads to swelling of the joint, bruising and pain in and around the ankle.
How can it be avoided?
- Taping the ankle before playing can give it added support and reduce the risk of a sprain.
- An ankle brace is an alternative to taping, especially if the sprain is a recurring problem.
- Wobble board training is specifically designed to increase the flexibility in the ankle joint and is used to increase your balance, reducing the probability of getting a strain.
- Especially in the first couple of days after the injury it needs to be protected. A support/bandage should be applied to help with compression of the injury.
- Ice, rest and elevation should also be applied. Use an ice bag on the injury.
How should you care for a sprained ankle?
To stretch the hamstrings dynamically walk without bending the knees, attempting to touch the foot with the hand on each stride.
This stretch is superb for stretching the hip flexors which can become tight in soccer players. With the hands clasped behind the head walk with an exaggerated forward lunging movement. Be sure to keep the trailing knee off the ground.
High knee to ball
Have a partner hold a ball at waist height and try to touch the ball with alternating high knees. The movement should be kept rhythmical and continuous by bouncing on the toes gently between each high knee. This also helps develop quick feet. Swap places after one minute.
High toe to ball
Have a partner hold a ball at waist height and try to touch the bottom of the ball with alternating feet. Again, bounce gently on the toes rather than staying flat-footed throughout the exercise. Continue for one minute and change.
Sit with the legs bent and soles together. Gently press the knees downward to increase the stretch.
Lying on your back, bend one knee and pull the other knee towards your chest. Try to straighten your leg as far as possible while holding your thigh in place. Hold and repeat with the other leg.
Standing on one leg, grab the bottom of the other leg just above the ankle. Pull the heel into the buttocks and push the hips out. The thigh should be perpendicular to the ground. Hold for a few seconds and repeat with the other leg.
Place the feet in front of each other about 18 inches apart. Keep the back leg straight and the heel on the floor. Hold for a few seconds and repeat with the other leg.