Soccer Injury Recovery: What Parents Need to Know

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Soccer player sliding to kick ball away from opposing player

By: John Gallucci, Jr., MS, ATC, DPT

President, JAG-ONE Physical Therapy

Medical Coordinator, Major League Soccer

Parents, especially those of athletes, have the extremely tough job of looking out for the best interest of their child on and off the playing field. In a moment’s notice, a parent can go from their child’s best friend to their worst enemy- I know you all know what I am talking about- based off a decision that was made to ensure their health and safety. As if this job isn’t hard enough, dealing with the emotions of an injured athlete can make navigating this job even more difficult and that is why it is important that parents remember to stay calm, listen and be supportive.

Stay Calm

Sustaining an injury and realizing the length of time needed for recovery in order to return to a sport is a very stressful time for an athlete. If we then include the daily stressors placed on the athlete such as school work and maintenance of social relationships and eliminate the physical activity which they may use to release stress, we may find that this athlete is completely overwhelmed. As a healthcare professional, I sometimes see parents who place additional stress on an athlete by not believing the extent of their child’s injury or by pushing their child to return to the playing field quicker than advised by their doctor, physical therapist or certified athletic trainer. Parents need to remember that their child is not playing in a professional league and that missing one practice, game or tournament is not going to ruin their career. Most importantly parents must remember that their child is going to look to lean on them for support during this difficult time, so it is imperative that they remain positive, calm and their biggest fan throughout the recovery process.

Be Supportive

As stated in an earlier article, athletes go through a range of emotions to include shock, anger, fear, frustration and isolation following sustaining an injury. During this difficult time, athletes often feel that their coach has stopped caring about them, that their teammates have no time to spend with them, that friends are no longer around and that their social life consists only of rehabilitation. Although this may not be the intentions of their coach, friends and teammates these feeling and fears are real for the athlete and the parent must be able to recognize these emotions and continually reassure the athlete that they are on the road to recovery and every day that passes is one day closer to getting back on the field.

Be a Great Listener

Does it seem like your child is always getting hurt or that your athlete can’t seem to recover from a past injury? If so, it is time to dig deeper to try and find the root cause. As a healthcare professional who has worked with almost every sport at every level from youth all the way up to the professional ranks I have learned to become a detective of sorts when it comes to dealing with the injured athlete. What I mean by this is sometimes the injury is deeper than surface level and recovery times are being hindered by the athlete’s emotions and we must be able to detect this. Athletes, especially in today’s world, are being pushed by coaches, parents and friends to be faster and stronger and sometimes this means playing the same sport 365 days a year for multiple hours each day. Keeping up with this pace can only last so long before the athlete experiences burnout, staleness, overuse injuries and ultimately a decreased likeness of the sport in which they are involved. These signs of symptoms of overtraining can be detrimental to an athlete’s career and therefore parents should monitor and look to prevent this from happening by allowing the athlete to take a season off or encouraging them to play a different sport all together  just for fun during one season.

Parents of athletes must remember that sports, in this case soccer, are supposed to FUN! Soccer should be utilized as a way for their child to release negative stress and energy and also as a way for them to build new social circles. Creating a negative energy around injuries, or sports in general, will only deter your child from wanting to participate and can lead to more frequent injuries with lengthened recovery times.

For more information in regards to injury recovery, please be sure to check out Soccer Injury Prevention and Treatment: A Guide to Optimal Performance for Players, Parents, and Coaches written by John Gallucci Jr., MS, ATC, PT, DPT.