Youth soccer is associated with higher than average injuries when compared to other contact/collision sports, particularly among young, pre-adolescent players. Young female players are prone to knee and ACL injuries while young male players are prone to ankle injuries. Concussions are also a fairly common injury associated with youth soccer due to collisions with other players. An emphasis on safety through teaching and rule enforcement from coaches and referees can be very helpful in reducing soccer-related injuries.
Soccer (known as football outside the United States) is one of the most popular team sports in the world and has seen tremendous growth in the United States over the last decade. An estimated 15.5 million people play soccer in the U.S. with two national youth organizations enrolling 650,000 and 3.2 million youth players each. Additionally, over 700,000 children played soccer in U.S. high schools in 2008-2009. Unfortunately, along with the growing rate of participation means more soccer-related injuries.
Risk of Soccer Injuries
The US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), through its National Electronic Injury Surveillance System, estimated that there were 186,544 soccer-related injuries in 2006. About 80 percent of these injuries were among people below the age of 24 with 44 percent of the injuries affecting those under the age of 15.
Common Soccer Injuries
Soccer is classified as a high to moderate intensity contact/collision sport with most injuries caused by player to player collisions or impact from hitting the ground, ball, or goal post. Thankfully, most soccer injuries are considered minor, only requiring basic first aid or temporary rest from the game.
85-95 percent of soccer injuries occur to the lower-extremities:
- Ankle injuries account for 16% to 29% of soccer injuries and are most common in male players
- Knee injuries account for 7% to 36% of soccer injuries and are most common in female players
- The lower leg (5%–6%),upper leg (9%–22%),and groin/torso (5%) receive some soccer injuries
- Contusions and sprains/strains of the lower extremities are the most common type of injury
- Fractures account for less than 10% of soccer injuries
- Rupture of the ACL is most common among female players
3-12 percent of soccer injuries occur to the upper-extremities:
- shoulder injuries account for 1.1%–1.8% of total injuries
- Injuries to the wrist/hand/elbow account for 3%–5% of total injuries
- Direct impact to the abdomen can result in intra-abdominal organ damage, and although most cases are relatively minor in severity, there have been some life-threatening and even fatal cases of abdominal trauma reported.
Fatalities Resulting From Goalpost Contact
Fatalities among soccer players are not common, but there have been 28 deaths since 1979 associated with traumatic contact with goalposts. Equipment manufacturers and the CPSC have recommended that soccer goalposts be properly secured when and when not in use.
Concussions occur in soccer among professional and recreational athletes at a rate of 3 percent of total injuries although some believe that number to be very low. There is not currently enough scientific data to state that soft helmets would prevent head injuries and as such, no safety guidelines or rules have been put in place for helmet use.
Eye and Other Facial Injuries in Soccer
Soccer is classified as a sport with low-to-moderate risk of eye injury but even so, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the American Academy of Ophthalmology strongly recommend protective eyewear for all participants in soccer. Soccer is also associated with oro-facial and dental injuries and the use of protective mouth guards has been advocated to reduce the number of these injuries.
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