Sneak Peak Into: Soccer Injury Prevention and Treatment. Part 6

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Physical Therapist examining young woman's leg

Sneak Peak into Soccer Injury Prevention and Treatment: A Guide to Optimal Performance for Players, Parents, and Coaches.

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Available May 28th, 2014

This week take a look at a topic discussed in John Gallucci Jr.’s book:

Preventing and Treating Tendonitis

When we’re talking about any tendonitis, we’re discussing a tendon that is swollen or undergoing an inflammatory response. Typically, an athlete will feel some pain or discomfort when this occurs, and if he or she continues to stress the area by attempting to play through it, the inflammation will increase.

The two most common kinds of tendonitis in soccer players are Achilles tendonitis and pateller tendonitis.

Achilles Tendonitis

The single structure known as the Achilles tendon takes the two calf muscles—the gastrocnemeus and soleus—and combines them into the tendon, connecting at the back of the heel.
Signs and symptoms of Achilles tendonitis include:

  • Tightness or pain in the Achilles area, mostly in the mornings when first getting out of bed
  • Stationary periods that lead to tightness and pain
  • Severe pain along the Achilles tendon while playing, which can lead to a tear
  • Visible swelling around the Achilles tendon, with increased swelling throughout the day or activity

The best way to prevent Achilles tendonitis is to gradually progress from low to high intensity training and frequency so the body can adjust. Simply speaking, you cannot do too much, too quickly. Other preventive measures include ensuring that shoes fit properly, warming up properly before activity, and maintaining flexibility.

If the Achilles tendonitis is only causing soreness and pain, and is not affecting the athlete’s gait or performance, I recommend:

  • Heel lifts in both shoes, to raise the heel and alleviate tension in the Achilles and calf
  • A good warm-up and stretching routine
  • Practice modification – train at 50% of the normal level of activity and gradually increase the workload over time; for example, if the team does 10 sprints, the injured athlete should do 5

More serious cases of Achilles tendonitis require attention from physicians and physical therapists.

Patellar Tendonitis

Also commonly known as “jumper’s knee,” patellar tendonitis develops over time from repeatedly flexing and extending the knee. The repetitive actions of running, jumping, and kicking in soccer cause friction and inflammation just below the kneecap, directly over the patellar tendon.

Signs and symptoms of patellar tendonitis include:

  • Tightness and swelling directly over the patellar tendon in the knee
  • Difficulty going up and down stairs or getting in and out of cars
  • Difficulty running for long periods of time, especially on inclines
  • Difficulty jumping repetitively and kicking the ball

There are some easy ways to prevent and treat patellar tendonitis:

  • Wear appropriate footwear for the soccer surface: turf shoes for turf, boots for grass, flats for indoor
  • Keep the patellar tendon flexible and loose through stretching and a dynamic warm-up
  • Strengthen the muscles in the ankles, knees, and hip joints – most patellar tendonitis injuries can be limited with a good a quad-strengthening routine that includes plyometrics, functional training, and a flexibility component
  • Seek the help of a sports medicine professional immediately after beginning to feel discomfort, especially if gait pattern has changed

Returning to play too quickly after any tendonitis could lead to serious problems. Playing with Achilles tendonitis, for example, could cause a tear in the Achilles tendon, which requires surgery and a year of rehabilitation. Take the time to properly treat the injury. In order to continue playing the game we love, we must take the necessary steps for staying healthy and in the game.