Soccer, which is already the world’s most popular team sport, is gaining more popularity in the United States. The International Federation of Association Football (FIFA) estimates that a quarter of a billion children and adults around the world play soccer.
With such a huge number of people enjoying the sport all over the world, it’s no surprise that soccer injuries are in big increase. In NCAA men’s soccer, the overall injury rate is 7.7 per 1000 player exposures, which might seem like a small number, but in reality, most soccer players have been injured, whether during a practice or game, at least once in their lifetime.
While soccer is considered safer than other sports, it has a fast-paced nature that leads to ugly injuries on the field. Due to the rapid changes in direction, pivoting, lateral movements, and rapid accelerations and decelerations inherent in soccer, players are particularly vulnerable to injuries.
So, how do you avoid and prevent such injuries from interfering with the fun of the game? Read our list of top 8 tips to help you prevent ugly soccer injuries and stay safe on the field!
Keep Your Environment Safe
First thing first: you want to ensure that goals are well-padded and securely fastened. This way, you reduce the risk of head injuries if the goalkeeper or other teammates collide with the posts.
You also want your portable goals to be made of light materials in case any player collides with the posts.
At the end of each game, it’s important to secure the goals. A simple bicycle lock can be used to chain the goals and prevent them from getting knocked over. Soccer goals that aren’t secured or can fall onto youngsters and cause serious injury.
Also, never sit on or crawl under the goal or try to hang from the net.
The playing field itself must be prepared for the game — holes should be filled, debris removed, and bare places reseeded.
Don’t ignore the weather — If it’s raining, get off the field and get indoors as soon as possible, wear warm apparel (such as gloves and hats) while it’s cold outside, and take plenty of water breaks while it’s hot outside.
Stay in Good Physical Condition
Make sure you’re in decent physical shape before the soccer season. To ensure that you are ready for competition, train before the start of the season and increase the duration and intensity of your workouts gradually.
Maintain a balanced fitness routine that includes aerobic exercise, weight training, and flexibility during the off-season.
You can develop endurance, balance, strength, flexibility, and coordination by participating in fitness programs.
If you’re out of shape at the beginning of the soccer season, try to raise your activity level little by little to return to a higher level of fitness.
Warming up is essential for the preservation of your body before starting your soccer game. Cold muscles are more likely to get injured, according to studies. You can warm up by doing jumping jacks or 3 to 5 minutes of walking or running in place.
If stretching is part of your warm-up routine, make sure you stretch slowly, holding each stretch for half a minute.
Also, don’t forget to do cool-down stretches; they are as important as the warm-up ones!
Even slight dehydration can have a negative impact on your performance as a soccer player. If you don’t drink enough water, your body won’t be able to cool itself properly through sweat and evaporation.
Drinking 24 ounces of non-caffeinated drinks two hours before exercise is highly recommended.
It’s also a good idea to consume an extra 8 ounces of water or sports drink shortly before you exercise. Every 20 minutes, take a 20-minute break and drink an 8-ounce cup of water.
Protect your lower legs by wearing shin guards. Not wearing adequate shin guards is the most common cause of lower leg injuries, according to soccer tournament records.
Shoes with ribbed soles or molded cleats are also recommended (as shoes with screw-in cleats are linked to an increased risk of injury).
Nevertheless, you should wear shoes with screw-in cleats when more traction is required, like in the case of a wet pitch with high grass.
On wet playing surfaces, opt for synthetic, nonabsorbent balls. The reason you want to use these kinds of balls is that when leather balls get wet, they become water-logged and heavy, which puts you at a higher risk of getting injured.
Also, use balls that are the right size for the players’ age and gender.
Prepare For the Worst
No soccer game should be played unless there are people (usually the coaches) who are familiar with first aid and are prepared to provide it for small injuries including bruises, facial cuts, and mild sprains and strains.
If the game is being played on artificial grass fields, clean any skin abrasions thoroughly to avoid infection.
Be ready in case of an emergency — dislocations, concussions, contusions, abrasions, sprains, and fractures should all be addressed by coaches who have a plan in place to contact medical personnel for assistance.
Also, ensure that first aid kits, a stretcher, and ice packs are always on hand. Don’t forget to ensure you have access to a phone in case you need to contact emergency services.
Ensure Fair Play
In soccer, players frequently brush against or bump into each other, and it is the referee’s or official’s job to maintain fair play.
In case of violent contact or rough tackles, the officials safeguard the players by blowing against the offending team.
It’s obvious, though, that players who follow the rules are less likely to get hurt!
Wait for Past Injuries to Recover
We know it’s easier said than done, but try to resist your love for playing soccer if you’re injured and wait until it completely heals. Before returning to training, it’s highly recommended that players fully recover from any past injuries.
Soccer players that are pushed back into the game risk exacerbating their injuries or suffering an injury setback.
When young soccer players are eager to play a game, it’s the coach’s obligation to ensure that they are fully healed before returning to training.