Preventing Soccer Injuries

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Preventing Soccer Injuries

Have you considered taking up soccer during the recent excitement with the World Cup? Soccer (or football for the majority of the world) actually has many health benefits, especially when played with proper equipment and while using strategies for preventing soccer injuries.

Soccer Injuries InfographicHealth benefits of playing soccer

From cardiovascular health and endurance to coordination, there are many health benefits to playing soccer. Among those not mentioned here are further benefits for cognitive health, problem-solving skills, and teamwork values.

Improve your cardiovascular health

Did you know that soccer players may move as many as 5 to 7 miles during a game? Whether that movement is from sprinting, running, jogging, or walking, the across-the-field movement really adds up to big cardiovascular gains. An article in Men’s Health notes that, “playing soccer 2 days a week had a bigger effect on blood pressure than moderate daily exercise. “

Ramp up your cardiovascular endurance

Since the movement in soccer is almost constant, this really keeps a player’s heart rate up during the whole 90 minute match. This creates much more cardiovascular endurance for sustaining movements for longer periods of time.  The benefits don’t end at the whistle either. If you become involved in more competitive leagues, you’ll get the same great workouts during practice as well.

Help with coordination and balance

If you’ve seen the pivots, jumps, and dribbles happening on the World Cup field, you already understand some of the coordination and technique required to play soccer. It can help improve both hand-eye coordination, as when sending or receiving a pass, or whole body coordination when weaving between other players. If you play in the goalie position, these benefits are even greater.

Increase muscle and bone strength

This cardio-intensive exercise helps keep body fat levels down, while promoting active muscle engagement for long periods of time. This can lead to increased muscle strength. A University of Copenhagen study of premenopausal women suggests that playing soccer can increase leg muscle mass, jumping height, and posture. Just as importantly, it may decrease the risks for bone fractures. Researchers write:

[F]ootball training or other physical activities with similar movement characteristics might be recommended for healthy individuals to prevent osteoporosis, probably reducing bone fragility later in life.”

Safety considerations for preventing soccer injuries

If you’re ready to go out and begin playing, take a moment to review some of these guidelines for preventing soccer injuries. Injuries are, unfortunately, a fact of the game. The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) notes that in 2012 nearly 626,600 athletes in the U.S. were injured while playing soccer. The most common injuries were acute cases of sprains or strains, but more chronic overuse injuries can also occur. These include Achilles tendinitis, ACL injuries or ruptures, or shin splints.

Thankfully, you can prevent many of these injuries by:

  • Practicing common sense
  • Using appropriate equipment
  • Preparing yourself for the game

Let’s explore all of these in more detail.

Be aware of your current level of fitness

When starting out, it is most important to have a healthy look at your current fitness level. While you may want to be ready to leap in the air and run with the best of them, it’s better to perform a truthful analysis of your current fitness level. Start slow and gradually work into the longer bouts of running and sprinting during the game. It’s okay if you have to walk a lot at first. This can help prevent injuries that may have otherwise put you back on the couch for weeks.

Warm-up and cool-down regularly

Once you know where and how you want to start out, make sure to always implement a proper warm-up program before starting a game. Cold muscles are more prone to injury. The AAOS suggests warming up for at least 3 minutes with jumping jacks, walking, or light jogging. Once your muscles feel warm, do some stretching exercises to loosen up. If you’re more advanced, you can use FIFA’s 11+ warm-up routine that has been shown to reduce injuries by 30-50%.

Eat the right diet

For those of us in the drier areas of Nevada, proper hydration is crucial for preventing heat exhaustion and stroke. At the minimum, the AAOS recommends that you:

“Drink 24 ounces of non-caffeinated fluid 2 hours before exercise. Drinking an additional 8 ounces of water or sports drink right before exercise is also helpful. While you are exercising, break for an 8 oz. cup of water every 20 minutes.”

Beyond this, a proper diet can become part of your overall plan for preventing soccer injuries. FIFA, again, suggests a great healthy meal plan that focuses on energy needs both during your daily life and right before a game.

Use the right equipment

Protective sports equipment has been developed for a reason. You should always:

  • Wear shin guards to protect your lower legs
  • Wear a sports cup, if you’re a male
  • Wear correct pads, if you’re a goalie
  • Avoid shoes with screw-in cleats
  • Check the field before the match for any debris or holes

Allow yourself to recover after injuries

If you do suffer from an injury or begin to feel sharp, localized pain while playing, it is most important that you get off the field and assess your injury. For scrapes or bumps from collisions, properly clean out and bandage the area. For sprains and strains, practice the RICE method until you’re able to visit a doctor. For overuse injuries, it is even more important to see a doctor to establish a long-term course of treatment. Above all else, give yourself time to rest. The AAOS recommends that you return to play only after there is no pain or swelling, and you have a normal range of motion and strength in the affected area. As FIFA notes, “If there is one proven risk for injury, it is an incompletely healed previous injury.”

With a few simple precautions, you can enjoy many of the health benefits associated with playing soccer. While there are risks of injury, there are many proven and simple methods for preventing soccer injuries from occurring.

Are you following along with the World Cup?  Do you play soccer? What are your methods for preventing soccer injuries? 

Image by Rama V via Flickr

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By | 2016-11-03T08:33:10+00:00 July 7th, 2014|Categories: Inside Nevada Pain|Tags: , , , , , , , , , |0 Comments

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Nevada Pain
At Nevada Pain we believe that patient knowledge is a key component of any comprehensive treatment plan. It's one of our core guiding principles. By understanding the procedures for acute and chronic pain conditions that we treat, patients can make better informed decisions and choices for their own treatment plans. In our Inside Pain blog, we present accessible tips and tricks to incorporate into your own healthy lifestyle to help you manage and improve your current levels of pain.

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