Soccer, commonly known as" football" is the most popular sport in the world. It is not only fun to play but also beneficial as it improves muscle tone, flexibility, endurance, and strength. It is a high-paced game that requires a high amount of stamina, agility, and balance. Unfortunately, the risk of injury with football is high and can result in a traumatic event, for example colliding with another player, with a goalpost, or falling awkwardly on the ground. Any delay in the treatment can cause ongoing stresses and strains of the game to take their toll on the body. If the player continues to play despite the pain, it can lead to a more serious injury. To prevent these injuries, the player should take all the possible precautions and preventions while playing.  The player should wear protective gear and focus on physical fitness.  Physical fitness can be maintained by consulting a Physiotherapist, who develops an advanced, therapeutic exercise regime to prevent these injuries.  In this blog, we will discuss the various injuries suffered by soccer players, and their prevention strategies.

Prevention of Soccer Injuries
Most of the injuries occur due to inadequate warm-up and overtraining.

  • The player should start with warm-up exercises like sprinting and stretching.
  • Wear protective gear like headgear, eye protection, mouth guards, shin guards and knee pads, elbow pads, cleats, and ankle brace
  • Avoid playing on an uneven surface or one with holes or divots.
  • Avoid playing if you feel tired or lack energy, as you might be more prone to injury.
  • Drink a lot of water to stay hydrated before, during, and after playing.

Most Common Soccer Injuries
It's a high-intensity team sport that often includes falls and collisions. Injuries can range from minor cuts, bruises, and bumps to much more serious injuries that need immediate medical care.

Fractures: Stress fractures occur when the bone becomes weak due to overuse, mostly in the arms, ribcage, shoulders, legs, and feet. Fractures to the wrist, finger, ankle, or clavicle occur due to falling and knocking down. These injuries can be prevented, by being physically fit and not playing recklessly.

Tendonitis: Inflammation of the tendon is referred to as tendonitis, associated with overuse, but can also be developed when a traumatic injury creates micro-tears in the muscle fibers.

Head Injury: Injury of the head results in a concussion. A concussion is typically a mild injury to the brain that can cause headache, dizziness, memory and balance problems, nausea, double or blurred vision, memory, and concentration are also affected. It occurs when the head collides with the other player, or with the goalpost.

Wrist Strain: Falling on an outstretched arm includes wrist sprains, wrist fractures, and shoulder dislocations. It can occur when the wrist moves in an abnormal position, suddenly twist, bends backward, or sustains heavy impact. The player feels tenderness, warmth, popping or tearing sounds, and difficulty in moving the wrist.

Groin pull: Groin pull occurs as a result of a pull or stretch of the muscles of the inner thigh. A soccer player can pull their groin while kicking a ball. The player feels pain and tenderness in the groin and the inside of the thigh while raising the knee or while bringing the legs together. The player feels severe pain with a popping or snapping sound during the injury.

Iliotibial Band Syndrome: Iliotibial band syndrome occurs due to an overuse injury along the outer thigh. Due to continuous friction created by the IT band along the outer side of the thigh, during running. The player feels pain and tenderness on the lateral or outer part of the thigh and knee just above the knee joint.

Anterior cruciate ligament sprain: Anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injuries are the most common knee injury among soccer players. An ACL injury can occur during running and changing direction suddenly, slowing down or accelerating quickly, jumping, and landing awkwardly. This injury typically causes a loud "pop" when it occurs but may or may not cause pain. Pain and swelling will develop within 24 hours, followed by movement and tenderness along the joint line.

Meniscal injuryMeniscus Injury is also a common soccer injury. Meniscus tears are painful and often the result of twisting, decelerating, or a sudden jerk.

Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome: Patellofemoral pain syndrome or runner's knee is a condition in which the cartilage under the kneecap is damaged due to injury. It can occur due to strained tendons or misalignment in the knee. The player feels pain while exercising, bending the knee, climbing the stairs, squatting, and jumping. The player feels cracking or popping sounds in the knee while climbing stairs or after sitting for a longer duration with the knee bent.

Hamstring InjuryHamstring injury can range from a minor strain to a complete rupture. Continuous sprinting, running, and stopping movements in soccer can lead to hamstring injuries.

Shin Splints: Shin injuries are usually caused by excessive amounts of force on the front leg or the shinbone. Suddenly changing direction and stopping, jumping, and running for a long time can cause shin injury. The player feels soreness, tenderness, mild swelling, and pain in the lower leg.

Pulled Calf Muscle: Pulled calf muscle injury occurs when any one of the muscles i.e gastrocnemius or soleus is pulled from the Achilles tendon. This occurs due to jumping or running. The player feels bruising, redness, mild swelling, and is unable to stand on the ball of the foot.

Achilles Tendinitis: Achilles tendonitis injury occurs as a result of overuse. Soccer players perform sudden and repetitive movements that may eventually cause this injury over time.

Achilles Tendon Rupture: Achilles tendon rupture occurs due to the partial or complete tear of the Achilles tendon. This can occur when a soccer player performs a fast or jerky movement. Ankle sprains occur when the ligaments (surrounding the ankle joint) are stretched or torn.

Ankle Sprains: A medial ankle sprain can occur when the toes are turned out while the foot is flexed upward and Lateral ankle sprains can occur in soccer when a player kicks the ball with the top of their foot.

Plantar FasciitisFoot pain is caused due to the inflammation of the band of tissue that runs from the heel to the toes. The reason for foot pain in soccer players can be due to playing on hard surfaces or inappropriate footwear.

In case of injury: 
Immediate treatment should be taken after injury. Participation should be stopped followed by evaluation and proper treatment.  Minor injuries can be treated by rest, ice, and elevation. Consult a doctor or your physiotherapist immediately after the injury.

Role of the Physiotherapist:
Your physiotherapist designs an exercise program to strengthen the muscles that support your knees, ankles, and legs which help protect the player from the consequences of a blow to the head or shins. The therapists help to fully rehabilitate the player to prevent further injury and to return the player to training in the shortest possible time:

Diagnoses and finds the cause of the injury.
Promotes healing of the injured tissues by controlling the pain and inflammation.
The physiotherapy program emphasizes on:
  • Immobilization (R- rest, I- ice, C-compression, E-elevation). Other techniques include
  • Pain management
  • Modalities like TENS, shockwave therapy, ultrasound therapy, etc
  • Stretching,
  • Massage, Muscle conditioning,
  • Joint and soft tissue exercises,
  • Neuromuscular control (balance and proprioception) training,
  • Core strengthening exercises
  • Functional exercises,
  • Cardiovascular exercises,
  • Correction of abnormal biomechanics mobilization,
  • Dynamic stabilization
  • Taping or strapping,
  • Agility training,
  • Plyometric.

The physiotherapist rehabilitates the player by restoring the full range of motion, flexibility, strength, proprioception, and balance. Uses sport-specific functional testing and ensures that the player can return to the game.

ADVICE: To reduce the recurrence of the injury it is important to maintain preventive strategies. Proper treatment should be taken on time to avoid further complications.