Soccer is a well-loved sport across the globe that provides a great form of exercise, improves co-ordination, balance, dexterity as well as team work! The fast-paced nature and the constant running, kicking, and the amount of time spent on one foot does bring with it the risk for injury to the lower limbs. We believe an essential part of minimising injury risk is knowing these risks so you can identify them early and stop them progressing and keeping you off the field! So we’ve put together a list of some of the main injuries we tend to see in soccer:
If your knee keeps playing up and keeping you in pain, especially when your knee is bent, you may have a problem with your patellar tendon. Patellar tendinopathy describes damage to and inflammation of the patella tendon which runs across the front of the knee and attaches the knee cap (patella) and quadriceps to the tibia (shin bone). It works to help straighten the knee and in soccer tends to favour the leg that stays planted on the ground as opposed to the one kicking the ball. Fast changes in direction, runs and jumps can aggravate the patellar tendon, causing pain and making it difficult to bend and straighten the knee.
Your anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) is a ligament within the knee that is essential in stabilising the knee joint. With the quick direction changes, sudden stops and kicks, the twisting motion at the knee can damage (and in severe cases rupture) the ACL. This will leave the knee feeling unstable, painful and swollen and in severe cases may require surgery – so be careful!
Given the quick stops, changes in direction and the increased amount of time spent on one foot when kicking the ball compared to other sports, ankle sprains in soccer are a frustrating and all too common occurrence. Inversion sprains are most common, with the foot suddenly turning inwards and the ligaments on the outside of the ankle being strained to the point of damage. Eversion sprains, though much less common, can occur if a soccer ball hits outside of the ankle with force, causing damage to the ligaments on the inside of the ankle. Pain and swelling typically follow, and occasionally bruising may occur. This makes it very difficult to continue to bear weight on the injured ankle and can see you sitting out the rest of the game. Optimum recovery for ankle sprains are particularly important because repeated ankle sprains may lead to chronic ankle instability.
Fractures can occur as either a stress fracture or a standard fracture. A standard fracture is what you typically think of when you think fracture.. a crack or break that results from a high impact force – like a blow to the leg by a soccer ball. There are multiple types of these fractures depending on the way the bone cracks. A stress fracture results from repetitive stress to an area over time, so appears more like small hairlines. Either way they can both be very painful and need to be effectively managed to get you out of pain and back on the field as soon as possible!
Clinically referred to as medial tibial stress syndrome, shin splints describe pain that develops at the front of the shin bone (tibia). It’s caused by excess stress and strain to the shins which may occur in multiple ways, including a bending stress on the tibia and excess strain on the musculature at the front of the legs. Poor running techniques and tight muscles can also contribute to the development of shin pain so stretching and working on technique must be a priority. Because shin pain can continue for long periods after it manifests, it’s important to manage effectively to get back to activity as soon as possible.
The achilles is the tendon that inserts into the back of the heel from the calf muscles. With quick starts, stops and kicks in soccer, the achilles tendon can take on a lot of tension and can become inflamed and painful. Players with tight calf muscles that don’t have a good stretching and warm-up routine risk putting more strain on the insertion of the achilles tendon at its insertion into the back of the heel and causing irritation. Because damage to the achilles tendon can progressively worsen and degenerate if not effectively managed, care must be taken when pain at the achilles begin so that it doesn’t develop a tear or general weakening.
Hamstrings can be very painful when they’re stretched passed a point that they can normally handle! Your hamstrings are located at the back of your thigh and stretch when you bring your leg up in front of you and straighten your knee – just like when you’re reaching out for the ball in soccer!
Turf toe describes the hyperextension of the big toe to the point where it damages and strains the tissues surrounding the big toe joint. Movements that bend the big toe upwards with force, like quickly taking off for a run, and playing on hard surfaces increase the risk for turf toe.
With stretching to reach for the ball, run, quickly chafe direction and kick, it’s no wonder that the muscles and ligaments surrounding the groin can become strained and painful. A groin pull can occur when the muscles of the groin or thigh and suddenly or forceful stretched and tensed, and may result in a tear. The groin and inside of the thigh will be painful, swollen and it may be difficult to raise your knee or bring your legs together.
While these injuries and others can bring with them a great deal or pain, frustration and missed games, you can reduce the risk of sustaining these injuries by being aware of the risks and mindful of your actions, developing good technique, and not skimping on stretches, warming up or cooling down. Because many of these injuries are associated or attributed to by muscular strain, working on modifying loads to strengthen the associated muscles can have a massive impact on both your rate of injury and your performance.
If you’ve sustained an injury and are wanting a fast and effective approach to recovery, to minimise your risk of re-injury, or are wanting to work on your pre-season technique, come in and see our experts at Sole Motion Podiatry. We love working with soccer players and seeing them performing better than ever! Give us a call on 1300-FX-FEET