Injury Prevention for Soccer Players
By: Sylvia Tripp D.C.
Soccer, internationally known as Fútbol, is one of the most popular sports in the Pacific Northwest and the most prevalent sport in the world. As the sport continues to rise in popularity, it’s not surprising that the number of injuries associated with this sport are on the rise as well. The 3 most common injuries in soccer players include hamstring strain, ankle sprain, and knee injuries. Overuse injuries such as shin splints and Achilles tendonitis are common as well.
A study was conducted on select U-12 to U-18 soccer players over the course of a 3 year period. The study showed that about 50% of players with an ankle sprain had a prior sprain, many within the same season. Now this shows one of two things. The underlying injury was never fully resolved, although pain symptoms may have subsided and proper rehabilitation was not conducted to allow stability of the joint and ligaments by the surrounding structures.
The question here lies, what can we do to prevent these injuries and re-injuries from occurring? The answer is simple – by implementing structured programs and regularly assessing soccer players for any predisposing injury risk factors. Although someone may not show symptoms of pain, they may have signs of movement biomechanical dysfunction and with continued dysfunction comes the increased risk of injury. Biomechanical dysfunction is a change in musculoskeletal mechanics resulting in faulty movement patterns. Improved performance should never come at the cost of an injured player.
One of the best programs out there today is the FIFA 11+ program with was developed by an international group of experts within FIFA. Teams that performed the program at least twice a week had 30-50% fewer injuries compared to those that did not. National and Major Club teams have been implementing the program since its launch in 2010 including Germany, Spain, Japan, Brazil, FC Barcelona, and Olympic Leona. And for those who follow the Men’s and Women’s World Cup 3 of the 4 teams who have won the World Cup have been following this program.
The FIFA 11+ program is broken down into 3 parts with a total of 15 exercises spanning from running, strength, plyometric, and balance exercises. Within the 15 exercises, there are beginner, intermediate, and advanced levels so the players can change their warm-up routines as they improve and progress. In addition to the ability to modify the exercise per athlete, the program easily describes how to properly execute the exercise, including proper body positioning and body biomechanics.
An example of an exercise within the program is Squat Walking Lunges.
Description: This exercise strengthens your hamstrings and gluteal muscles and improves your movement control.
Starting Position: Standing with both feet hip-width apart on the ground and your hands at your hips.
During the exercise: Lunge forward slowly at an even pace. As you lunge, bend your hips and knees slowly until your leading knee is flexed to 90 degrees. The bent knee should not extend beyond the toes. Keep your upper body straight and your pelvis horizontal.
Repetitions: 2 sets, (10 lunges on each side)
Important when performed the exercise:
- Bend your leading knee to 90degrees
- Keep you upper body upright
- Keep your pelvis horizontal
- Your bend knee should not extend beyond your toes
- Do not let your leading knee buckle inwards
- Do not bend your upper body forwards
- Do not twist or tilt your pelvis to the side
In addition to a proper warm-up routine, have a proper cool-down routine. This portion of it is often neglected after practice and after games because of busy schedules. Stretching, specifically static stretching, can help reduce muscle soreness and keep muscles elongated and flexible. Be sure to stretch after each training period to reduce your risk of injury.
Out of shape at the beginning of the season? Low endurance has been cited as an injury risk. Approximately 25% of all injuries occur within the last 10 to 15 minutes of a game. And if it not uncommon for injuries to occur during preseason when players are unfit. So what in the conclusion of this? Start pre-training prior to the beginning of the season to allow yourself to be prepared for the season to come and decrease chances of fatigue and injury.
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