Soccer Injury Treatment
Soccer is the most popular sport in the world by several metrics including athlete participation and fan involvement, and it is finally gaining popularity in the United States. Although soccer can help athletes stay in great shape and routinely improves the endurance and coordination of its players, the game involves many risks from an injury standpoint. Professionals in the field of soccer physical therapy attempt to diagnose, treat and even prevent injuries before they even occur on the field, but the onus is not just on them — players should be familiar with the physical risks inherent in soccer and learn as much as they can in order to remain on the field long-term.
Where do soccer injuries occur?
As one would expect, most injuries in soccer occur below the waist — a whopping 50 to 80 percent of injuries occur in a player’s ankles, feet, lower legs, knees and thighs. About 40 percent of these injuries take place in the foot or ankle, but most of those injuries are relatively minor pratfalls like sprains or strains. Knee injuries count for about a quarter of all leg injuries, and these injuries are typically more serious; the anterior cruciate ligament, or ACL, tears or snaps somewhat easily and requires extensive physical rehab before being able to operate normally again.
The data on head injuries is notoriously shoddy, but it is believed that anywhere from 5 to 20 percent of soccer-related injuries are head injuries. Usually these injuries are mild trauma or concussion-related, and the incidence of reported concussions has risen in the past few years as collisions with other players, the ground, or even the ball have become topics of conversation.
What are some more specific injury statistics?
The main injury cause for soccer players surveyed was personal contact or collisions, which clocked in at 38 percent. Depending on the position being played — either goalkeeper, defense, midfielder, or forward/striker — the probability of contact being the main mechanism for injury is lower or higher. Specifically, it is highest for goalies and lowest for attacking strikers.
Most upper limb injuries come as the result of a fall to the ground, whereas personal player-to-player contact causes most lower body injuries that occur in soccer. Most knee damage is to the anterior cruciate ligament, but the second-leading injury recipient in the knee is the medial collateral ligament. The posterior cruciate and lateral collateral ligaments are rarely injured, with both accounting for about 10 percent of all knee injuries in soccer. When the meniscus is damaged, the cause is usually improper ball striking. For people playing soccer the pain can be extremely real and extremely worrying — let’s take a closer look at some other parts of the body that are often injured on the pitch.
Cruciate knee ligament
The cruciate ligament helps affix the kneecap to itself: the anterior cruciate ligament is in the front of the knee, and the posterior cruciate ligament is in the back of the knee. The front ligament is injured more frequently than the back one, and this mostly occurs when the knee dislocates while the foot is still on the ground. Cruciate injuries often involve sensitive surrounding tissue, such as joint cartilage and the medial knit.
Unfortunately, cruciate injuries are very serious — they require surgery and invasive stitching techniques, and will usually sideline athletes for about 5 to 9 months. Turning, landing and stopping are all major causes of these injuries, but they are also essential skills that soccer requires; it is clear that soccer and knee injuries are unfortunately inextricably linked.
he hamstring trio of muscles are a large muscle grouping that exists on the rear side of the thigh. They are sometimes strained or torn when players attempt to overstretch them or start intense movement without giving the body proper warning. Doctors generally agree that there are three levels of hamstring damage that can be assigned to any injury: small muscles are impacted in the first level, significant muscle damage and pain are present at the second level, and severe pain and large muscle rupture occur at the third level. Third degree hamstring injuries may require surgical intervention, whereas first and second degree damage can usually be repaired through either rest or special massage techniques.
Because the severity of hamstring injuries differs so tremendously between degrees, the healing time can vary from a week to several months. Usually, players can return to game action within 2 to 4 weeks. However, hamstring injuries can be fairly reliably avoided by engaging in proper warm-up exercises and regular massage therapy.
The leg consists of four bones: the femur and patella – at the top, tibia and fibula – the shins. In football, mostly injured part is shin. Most fractures occur under the influence of external factors – as a result of a collision or a bad fall.
Fractures can be very serious and often they are a threat to football career. Simple fracture of the fibula or requires the imposition of gypsum by 12-16 weeks. This is followed by a long period of physical therapy aimed at developing and strengthening the leg muscles.
Normally – up to six months. However, recovery can take up much more time (9 to 18 months). These cases include open fractures.
Leg muscle injury
The femur, the patella, the tibia and the fibula make up the basic bone structure of the leg, in descending order to the foot. Most soccer leg bone injuries occur in the lower leg and are the result of external forces such as opposing players’ feet or the ball. Fractures are often very serious and can even be career-ending injuries: a basic fracture of the fibula requires induction of gypsum at around 12 to 16 weeks, and then a long physical therapy strengthening period that can last up to six months. As with any injury, this time period is indefinite — some players may take up to 18 months to fully recover. All soccer injury treatment regimes and approaches are different.
The Achilles tendonitis
Leg muscle injuries are often called shin splints, and they can affect the shins, toes and ankles of young players or overworked experienced players. External conditions, like hard playing surface or muscle fatigue, can contribute to this category of injury. Leg muscle injuries do not require contact with an opponent, and they can and do occur even during warmups. These injuries are often recurrent, and even with rest they may not fully retreat. In these cases, it is best to consult with a physical therapist to determine what type of soccer therapy the muscles should undergo to regain their form. Strengthening the calf and ankle area with specific exercises is a helpful tool, but sometimes even changing shoes can make a world of difference.
The achilles tendon is massive and powerful, but it commonly ruptures when exposed to extreme force or odd movement. When it ruptures, the Achilles causes tremendous pain and damage in the ankle. Although most cases do not require surgery, even moderate cases can take up to 3 to 4 months to heal. Doctors often prescribe rest, regimented exercises, regular ice treatments and physical therapy to injured players.
The quadriceps group of muscles is in the front of the thigh; strong contact to the area can result in a collision between muscle tissue and bone, which causes bruising and even muscle tears in extreme cases. This is a very common injury in soccer, and although it usually heals in a few days it may last for several weeks if the bruising is deep enough. Again, a period of rest followed by ice and soft compression treatment is the traditional recommendation of physical therapists.
During convulsions, muscles in the body seize involuntarily, causing tremendous amounts of short-lived pain during spasms. Improper training and previously strained muscles are important causes of this condition, but convulsions can happen to experienced players who are not properly hydrated or in shape as well. Therapists usually stretch and massage the affected body part until the spasms are sufficiently diminished so as to allow the player to reenter the game.
Also known as FAI, this hip pain condition that frequently affects younger players is the result of changes in the proximal femur caused by the repetitive kicking motion necessary to effectively play soccer. There are three distinct types of FAI — pincer, cam and combined impingement — but all types are characterized by damage in the hip joint and symptoms that include limping, general stiffness in the region, and a dull pain. Physical therapists ask players exhibiting those symptoms to undergo an impingement test; if this test is inconclusive, they order further imaging tests.
If FAI is diagnosed, therapists work with the athlete to reduce symptoms by administering painkillers, improving the hip’s range of motion manually, and performing exercises to relieve pressure on the injured labrum. Arthroscopic surgery is typically the last resort of physical therapists, mainly because the recovery period is so lengthy.
Hip labral tear
The labrum is a ring of soft elastic tissue alongside the outside edge of the hip socket that helps hold the ball of the hip joint in place. Soccer players are predisposed to tearing this tissue due to the nature of the kicking motion, and many therapists interested in soccer and injury prevention concentrate on the hip joint as a possible problem area. Pain relievers and physical therapy are often employed to an extent, but athletes may have to undergo arthroscopic surgery if the tear is deep enough. During this surgery, doctors remove repair the joint and remove loose structures within the joint in order to better facilitate movement.