The Most Common Soccer Injuries for Kids
Young children and teens are hitting the soccer field again. That means it’s also the season for soccer injuries for kids.
From sprains to fractures to tears, here are the most common soccer injuries in student athletes that we see at The Pediatric Orthopedic Center.
Knee Injuries in Soccer
Athletes may suffer traumatic injury to the knee during a soccer match from the quick twisting and turning when the knee joint is bent, a sharp blow to the knee, or landing incorrectly. Field conditions and turf also play a role in soccer knee injuries. Common knee injuries are:
- Knee sprains – The ligaments that hold the bones together become overstretched. Many people have experienced or know about ACL sprains and tears (covered further down). Other ligaments that run along the inside and outside of the knee joint may also be sprained.
- Kneecap bursitis – This is an inflammation of the bursa, a small fluid-filled sac near the knee joint that reduces friction and cushions pressure points between the bones and tendons, muscles and skin. Knee bursitis commonly occurs over the kneecap or on the inside of the knee below the join. This condition is painful and may limit your child’s mobility.
- Meniscal tear – Two pieces of cartilage called the menisci rest between the thighbone and shinbone and act as shock absorbers. Your child may feel a pop when the meniscus tears and may even be able to continue playing. However, over the next few days, the knee gradually becomes stiff and swollen. In addition to pain, your child may report a sensation of the knee giving way, a limited range of motion, or the knee locking. If left untreated, a meniscal tear can lead to more serious damage in the joint.
- Patella (kneecap) instability – Athletes may suffer a full dislocation of the kneecap to the outside of the thigh bone or a subluxation (partially out of joint).
- Anterior knee pain – Young players who are still growing may have pain at growth regions around the patella. A bump may appear at the site that usually disappears after the child is fully grown.
Torn ACL in Soccer
As with a meniscus tear, a torn ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) is among the more serious soccer injuries and can keep a player on the bench for six months or longer. The ACL plays a crucial role in stabilizing the knee and provides stability when the soccer player lands from jumps or changes direction.
Soccer players may suffer a partial or complete ACL tear and feel the knee buckle when injured. The risk of an ACL injury is greater in female athletes (four to times greater than in males), often a result of turns, landings, and non-contact single-leg cuts. Defensive tackling is also a culprit for all players. A torn ACL often accompanies a torn meniscus or other ligament. Surgery is required to repair the injury, followed by rehabilitation. A new surgical technique to repair a torn ACL called Bridge-Enhanced® ACL Restoration or BEAR is less invasive and surgical treatment to repair a torn ACL, that can be performed safely on young patients whose bones are still growing.
Head Injuries in Soccer
Soccer is among the top five sports that can cause a concussion for males and females, and it is the #1 sport that causes concussion in females. Soccer goalies often suffer concussions from a direct or indirect hit to their heads. This is a mild traumatic brain injury that results from the impact causing the brain to shift or shake inside the skull. Concussion can lead to cognitive and sleeping problems, headaches, dizziness and nausea, mood changes, and fatigue.
The athlete should seek medical attention immediately when a concussion is suspected. In addition to rest, physical and other therapies may be required, depending on the severity of concussion. Athletes should not return to play until the brain is fully-healed, based on medical diagnosis and testing. Younger athletes and females in particular tend to require longer recuperation times from concussions.
Other head injuries in soccer are facial fractures and lacerations, and eye injuries from soccer balls and head-to-ground and head-to-body part collisions.
Fractures in Soccer
These are usually the result of training on hard ground, training errors or improper technique, over-training, or improper athletic footwear. The fractures occur due to repetitive stress that breaks down the outer layer of bone faster than it can be rebuilt. In young soccer players, most stress fractures happen in the tibia (shin bone) and fibula (the calf bone along the side of the tibia). The metatarsal bones of the foot are also vulnerable to stress fractures. Your child may have pain that subsides with rest, but eventually worsens over time.
These are caused by an impact in soccer and include:
- Foot fracture of the metatarsal bones
- Ankle fracture of the tibia, fibula, and talus above the heel
- Wrist fracture – impact to the palm or hand when breaking a fall can cause a scaphoid fracture, a break of the wrist’s carpal bones which are located where the wrist bends on the thumb side of the hand
- Clavicle fracture – a break in the collarbone
Other common soccer injuries
Other common injuries parents and coaches should look out for are shoulder dislocation or separation, pulled hamstring muscles, runner’s knee (patellofemoral pain syndrome), tendonitis, and ankle sprains. A clavicle fracture may cause radiating pain to the shoulder, as well.
How to prevent soccer injuries
Stretching and warmups before taking the field and after the match will help avoid muscle strains and pulls…and keep kids limber and on the field.
To avoid soccer injuries—or minimize the ensuing pain and any long-term damage—we recommend athletes:
- Wear soccer shoes with molded cleats, and proper support and fit
- Build up intensity on strength training and speed training slowly, especially after taking a break in the off-season to avoid over-training
- Continue strength exercises off-season to maintain peak physical fitness
- Wear protective headgear and shin guards, add braces and tape where needed
- Stay hydrated
Best exercises for soccer to prevent injury
Since soccer players rely so heavily on speed and power, building their core and leg muscles are essential to prepare for soccer season. The best exercises to develop strength and flexibility, improve balance, and reduce risk of injury are:
Single leg squats – These target the core leg muscles soccer players use, plus help develop balance and coordination.
Calf raises – Soccer players need strong calf muscles for running and jumping. Calf raises are excellent for stretching and leg training and reduce the risk of ankle and foot injuries.
Side planks – Side planks stabilize the core and abdominal muscles. Doing so helps build strength, improves flexibility and movement on the field, and helps players maintain hip balance.
Glute bridges – Do these for enhancing hip extension, building core stability, and improving posture.
Ankle hops or jumps – These build speed and power, helping a young athlete’s ankles stay flexible when running or kicking. Ankle hops also contribute to overall lower body strength.
When to see a doctor
Many soccer injuries can be treated with rest, ice, compression and limb elevation (and a bandage or two). However, certain injuries require more robust medical attention by a pediatric orthopedist to evaluate the child, and accurately diagnose and recommend the proper course of treatment.
At The Pediatric Orthopedic Center, we recommend children see a doctor for:
- The possibility of concussion, ACL or other ligament tears
- Obvious or suspected fractures
- Immediate bruising at a site
- Difficulty bearing weight (foot, knee, leg)
- Inability to move a body part normally
- Lingering or intensifying pain to lower extremities or joints
- Shooting pain that has spread beyond one region
- Recurrent pain
- Significant swelling, numbness, tingling
The Pediatric Orthopedic Center specializes in pediatric and adolescent sports injuries, with expertise in the latest arthroscopic procedures for ACL reconstruction, meniscal repairs, and other injuries. Our team of board-certified pediatric orthopedists and foot and ankle specialists are available to see patients in four offices, with extended urgent care hours in our Cedar Knolls location.< Back to Blogs