Make it your goal to stretch, strengthen, and stay hydrated before hitting the soccer field

With all the running back and forth across that super large playing field, few rest breaks, and all that heading, soccer is one of the more physically demanding sports.

Our ATI Injury Analyst Julia Gray, a physical therapist at our clinic in Winfield, IL, is a former Division 3 soccer player at Augustana College who knows first-hand the type of injuries that are common among soccer players. She tore her ACL and meniscus in high school and after rehab went on to play collegiate sports.

Amy Lepeilbet has overcome injuries to make it to Team USA. (Image courtesy of sportsvuesoccer.com.)

Julia says in addition to ACL and Meniscal Tears other common soccer injuries include…

  • Hip Flexor Strain: When you kick, you have your hip flexors to thank. These muscles move the knee toward the chest. With too much repetition or too much tension, the hip flexor muscles may tear causing pain in the front of the hip or the groin. If you feel pain while lifting the knee to the chest, you could have a hip flexor strain.
  • Groin Strain: The groin muscles located on this inside of the upper legs pull the legs together and help with movement of the hip joint. When these muscles are stretched too far, you know it because it is quite painful. Symptoms of a groin strain include difficulty walking, pain while sitting or at rest, and pain at night.
  • Hamstring Strain: The dreaded “pop” noise and then agony is one sign of a hamstring strain. The hamstring muscles run along the back of the thigh and allow you to bend your leg at the knee. You don’t always hear the “pop”. Other symptoms include sudden pain while exercises, or pain in the back of the thigh while walking.
  • Ankle Sprain:  The ankle has many ligaments holding it together and stress on these ligaments can cause them to stretch or tear. With the intense focus on the feet during soccer, ankle injuries are quite common.
  • MCL Tear: Due to rapid stopping and starting and quickly changing directions, the knees of soccer players are at particular risk. MCL, or medial collateral ligament, tears are injuries to the ligaments on the inner side of the knee.
  • Shin Splints: That pain along the shin may not be caused by your opponent kicking you. Once again it is the sudden stops and starts in soccer that is the likely culprit. That force on the lower leg causes irritation of the muscles and inflammation of the connective tissues.
  • Concussions: While there still remains some question about the dangers of heading the ball, it is clear that soccer players risk bumping heads with another player or the ground.

Prevention
Julia weighed in on some ways to prevent injuries on the soccer field…

  • Stretch: A whole body stretch is needed, but pay particular attention to those hamstrings, groin muscles, and hip flexors.
  • Stay properly hydrated: The National Athletic Trainers Association recommends 17 to 20 fl oz of water or sports drink 2 to 3 hours before exercise and 7 to 10 fl oz 10 to 20 minutes before exercise. Staying hydrated during the sport depends on a number of factors, but generally 7 to 10 fl oz every 10 to 20 minutes is a good rule to follow.
  • Dynamic warm-up: A dynamic warm-up challenges your whole body, getting your heart rate up, your joints loosened, and stretches your muscles.
  • Lower extremity muscle strengthening: Squats, lunges, and calf raises are just a few of the exercises to help build lower body strength.
  • Lateral agility drills: Drills, like everyone’s favorite ladder drill, that help you start and stop quickly and powerfully as you move laterally.
  • Plyometric training: Work with an athletic trainer to develop proper mechanics during these explosive exercises in which the muscles are repeatedly stretched and suddenly contracted.
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