Soccer is one of the most popular youth sports. Some 3 million kids play in U.S. Youth Soccer leagues, and many more play in other leagues or informal venues. Soccer is great exercise that builds aerobic fitness, improves coordination, and promotes teamwork. Unfortunately, any sport comes with risks of injury, and soccer is no exception.
How can you help your young soccer player stay injury-free? There are no guarantees, but following a few safety precautions—and asking your child’s coaches to as well—can help.
Keep them fit
Soccer players shouldn’t start out from a level of zero fitness, especially older kids who will be playing at a more intense level. To reduce the likelihood of sprains and strains, they should start with a base level of fitness that includes aerobic, flexibility, and strength training. Make sure the program they’re in builds up their level of fitness gradually before throwing them into games.
Because girls in particular are at higher risk of knee injuries, their training should include exercises to build up hamstring and inner quadriceps muscles and practice in pivoting, jumping, and landing with flexed knees.
Insist on warmups
Soccer players should warm up with walking, jogging, jumping jacks, or similar activities for three to five minutes, followed by slow and gentle stretches. They should stretch again after practices and games to help keep muscles long and flexible.
Mix it up
Many common injuries—such as tendinitis and shin splints—are overuse injuries. To avoid those problems, don’t let your child play on more than one team during a season and don’t let them play soccer year-round. During part of the year, have them switch to baseball, volleyball, track and field, or just a general fitness program—whatever other activity appeals to them.
Keep them hydrated
This is especially critical in our hot, dry climate. Ideally, soccer players should drink 24 ounces of non-caffeinated fluids in the two hours before a game or practice, another 8 ounces just before playing, and 8 ounces of water every 20 minutes during play.
Use proper equipment
- Have your child wear properly fitting shin guards and cleats.
- Make sure goal posts are padded and properly secured to prevent head injuries if players hit the posts.
- Don’t use a leather soccer ball if it’s wet out. It will absorb water and become heavy, increasing the likelihood of a concussion if a player gets hit in the head.
- Check the playing field for holes and debris that could cause injuries.
If your child does get injured, the medical professionals at Arizona Bone and Joint Specialists are happy to diagnose and treat the problem so your child can get back into the game as quickly as possible.
Arizona Bone and Joint Specialists is located in Scottsdale and Phoenix, Arizona, with convenient on-site services including physical therapy and imaging. For more information, make an appointment by calling the Scottsdale office at 602-493-9361 or the Phoenix office at 602-863-2040
The information in this article is for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace or counter a physician’s advice or judgment. Please always consult your physician before taking any advice learned here or in any other educational medical material.