[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