The experts at Summit Orthopedics provide soccer injury prevention tips in their QUICKGuide to prevent injuries and stay safe during the sport.
The head’s up on headers
Not enough research has been done to conclusively say whether repetitive heading causes long-term brain impairment. We know that even thinking about this can be terrifying for parents. The best advice we can give would be to keep players from heading the ball until they are able to use proper technique and demonstrate good muscle coordination and control of the head, neck and upper body. The ball should hit where the forehead meets the hairline, and the athlete should maintain a rigid neck, head and torso as the ball comes in contact with the forehead. Generally, it is recommended that children under 10 do not head the ball at all.
Save those knees, please
The ACL, one of the ligaments that cross in the knee and stabilize the joint, is an easy target for injury, especially in females. In fact, studies show that females are 2-8 times more likely to injure their ACL. The good news: there is a great warm up program designed to prevent ACL injury that only takes about 15 minutes and can be integrated into practices. It was designed specifically for soccer athletes, and has had promising results in preventing injury. Check it out at: Santa Monica Sports Medicine Research Foundation – PEP Program
Build strength for injury prevention
Strength training, when done in a safe age-appropriate way, has been shown to decrease injuries by up to 50%. Focus on the core – the muscles of your mid-section – which includes both the outermost layer of muscles, like the abs, glutes, and back muscles, and the internal muscles that provide support for the spine and the muscles on top of them. Don’t forget to strengthen those legs as well.
Fit gear well
With kids’ feet seeming to grow an inch a day, it can be tempting to buy a size or two bigger just to make them last longer. But when the foot can shift too much inside a bigger-sized shoe, we start to work against the shoe’s ability to adequately support the foot. You don’t have to get the latest and greatest soccer shoe either; just look for good shock absorption, a cleat style and size that fall within your league’s rules, and most of all adequate foot support from a good fit. The bad news is unfortunately during rapid growth spurts you may need to change out those shoes more often than you’d like to maintain good fit. Make sure those shin guards are well fitted also.
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