02 May Sprains, strains, broken bones – not concussions – most common soccer injuries
By Ben Farber
In the last decade, knowledge regarding the prevalence and danger of concussions in young athletes has become widespread. However, the number of concussions suffered on soccer fields remains relatively low compared to other injuries.
“It’s incredibly important for us to recognize the severity of concussions and the impact it can have on a young person’s life. The attention that is being focused on concussions is appropriate,” said Dr. Dev Mishra, a board certified orthopedic surgeon and sports medicine specialist at Stanford University. “But the most common injuries we see on soccer fields are not head injuries.”
Head trauma accounts for roughly 10-15 percent of all injuries, while sprains, strains and broken bones — particularly in the ankles and wrists — by far and away occur at a higher rate, Mishra added. Parents, coaches and players should be on the lookout for these more common afflictions and be aware that the type of injury can vary depending on age and sex of the players.
Although lower extremity injuries are most prevalent in youth soccer, younger athletes also tend to experience more wrist injuries as a result of falls, said Mishra, who also operates a program called Sideline Sports Doc, an injury management and assessment firm that works with youth coaches across the nation.
“Depending on which study you look at, wrist injuries are probably as high as second- or third-most common after ankle injuries among soccer players under the age of 12,” he said.
Meanwhile, teenagers are more likely to suffer partial or complete ligament tears. Once a player reaches adolescence, his or her risk for soft tissue damage and injuries that require surgery increases.
While boys tend to have more fractures and broken bones, girls are at a greater risk to suffer anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) or medial collateral ligament (MCL) injuries. Research also suggests that girls might need a more time than boys to recover from concussions, but the theory has not been fully proven, Mishra said.
Regardless of the player’s age, a proper dynamic warm-up before practice or games can drastically reduce the likelihood of injury. Mishra said he strongly recommends a program called FIFA 11+, especially for youth teams.
“FIFA’s medical committee designed it to become a routine part of every warm-up for practice at all age groups – from young kids to elite professionals and adult leagues,” he added. “It is supposed to reduce the rate and severity of many different kinds of lower extremity injuries.”
Over the last several years, studies have shown that FIFA 11+ can reduce the risk of injury by up to 35 percent across all age and skill levels.
“We’re seeing more and more independent research that is proving its effectiveness,” Mishra said. “But from the early tests, this program seems like a miracle cure.”
And if a player does suffer a mild to moderate injury on the field, the doctor sticks by a tried and true recovery method — RICE: rest, ice, compression and elevation.
“That’s what it’s all about,” Mishra said. “It is one of the oldest methods of treatment for sports injuries and for good reason – it works.”
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