Soccer, or Fútbol to the rest of the world, is the most popular sport in terms of participation. With millions of people taking part in the sport, the levels of injuries that are sustained during the activity tends to be much higher than other youth sports. As parents or coaches of young soccer players, the primary concern should always revolve around player health and wellness as they develop. While many injuries come from trauma, such as a fall or collision, there are also injuries that can be caused by growth patterns and overuse. Here are a few of the most common soccer injuries amongst young soccer players in America.
Osgood Schlatter disease in an overuse injury of the knee, caused by frequent use and physical stress that brings on inflammation so severe that it causes the patellar tendon to lose contact with the tibia. When boys and girls reach the age when they begin to grow quickly, they become susceptible to developing Osgood Schlatter. The movements associated with soccer such as running, jumping, and changing directions, all place stress on the knees at a time when they are growing. This stress can cause a small bony growth to develop below the patella, where the patellar tendon connects to the tibia. If your child, or a child on your team, is complaining of knee pain, Osgood Schlatter could be the cause. Utilize a period of RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation) to help pain and swelling in the knee subside. Before sending the player back out onto the field, it’s best to seek the advice of a physical therapist who can recommend exercises to strengthen the muscles surrounding the knee. This can help decrease pain in the knee until growth is complete.
Regular pain experienced in and around the kneecap region can be caused by a variety of injuries, disorders, and instability issues, but when the pain continuously worsens the source of the pain may actually be due to patellofemoral pain syndrome. With the constant change of directions, long periods of running, and ball handling movements, the soft tissues around the knee are placed at a higher risk for injury than other activities. This type of injury occurs between the patella and the femur, and may cause the cartilage under the patella to become softened or frayed if left untreated. For soccer players recovering from this type of injury, offseason conditioning and a physician-recommended weight training program will help develop the muscles around the knee that will help support the recovering patellofemoral region.
As young soccer players experience their growth spurts, they are at a risk to developing Sever’s Disease, a painful bone disorder resulting from inflammation in the growth plate located in the heel. Boys and girls who participate in soccer are most likely to develop Sever’s Disease between the ages of 8-15, especially if they remain active year round with activities that require running and jumping. If your child, or a child on your team is complaining of heel pain, utilize a RICE regiment until swelling and pain has subsided. Be aware that many children find that wearing their cleats as tight as possible will help exacerbate the pain associated with Sever’s Disease, so keep an eye out for players on the field or bench who are winching down their shoelaces before game time.
While not an exclusive-to-soccer injury, ACL injuries are very common due to the fast-paced action that occurs during a soccer match. ACL injuries are very uncommon in younger soccer players, but once a player reaches their mature height and weight, they can run a greater risk to ACL injuries due to their ability to run faster, change directions harder, and jump higher. ACL injuries are often very difficult to avoid, as they seemingly can happen on any movement that a player does and may have done thousands of times before. One way to prevent ACL injuries on the soccer field is to ensure that your footwear matches the conditions of the field. Many times, a player who goes to change direction plants and slips on the surface due to improper footwear, placing immense strain on the ACL and other ligaments in the knee.
Keeping our soccer players safe on the pitch is JAG PT’s #1 goal. Our president, John A. Gallucci, has written a best-selling book on the subject, which you can find here. If you’re looking for treatment for your young soccer star, don’t hesitate to visit one of JAG’s 10 locations in the New Jersey/New York City metro area.