During a soccer game, regular impacts and collision between players create the possibility for injury. The rules of the game provide for safety measures like not wearing iron studs and the presence of a referee to punish undue aggression. However, injuries can happen through various ways that do not involve a rash tackle. Sometimes, a player can become injured during a sprint, while kicking a ball, competing with a teammate for a high ball, and even during goal celebrations. The severity of each injury depends on the condition of the body at the time of impact, the intensity of the impact and other factors that may not be obvious to the observer.
Common Soccer Injuries
A soccer player may sustain an injury in virtually every part of the body, from the head to the toe. The regions of the body where injuries could occur can be divided into three: the lower extremities, upper extremities and the head.
Injuries in the lower extremities affect the body parts from the hip to the toe. Examples of injuries that occur in this region include hip dislocation, groin injuries, hamstring strains (at the back of the thigh), anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tears (affecting the knee), Achilles tendon rupture (calf), ankle sprains and breaks, or metatarsal fractures (bones in the feet). Bruises to the leg, kicks to shins and stepping on a player’s ankle may be classed as minor injuries, although it would still depend on the force applied and how developed those body parts are in an individual.
In the upper extremities, soccer players may sustain different injuries such as shoulder dislocation, back sprains and a neck fracture. Though a minor injury, a painful impact to the finger could also be serious enough to keep a player out of a game or practice session.
Thirdly but definitely not least, injuries to the head range from mild as in bumps, bruises, and cuts, to moderate or severe as in concussions, deep cuts, fractured skull bone(s), and internal bleeding.
Identifying a possible injury
Observation is the first way to discern whether a child is injured or not. A parent should reasonably enquire after a practice match or soccer game about how the child feels, especially if the child went down under a challenge, showed signs of pain or exhaustion or did not play up to their usual levels. If the child speaks of pain in particular areas of the body, you should pay attention to that but also hold the possibility of something else. A number of general questions can be asked as follows:
- How was the game today?
- Were you involved in any serious collisions?
- Do you feel pain in any your joints (neck, shoulder, elbow, wrist, hip, knee, and ankle)?
- Did you feel any pains while running at any point during games today? (this checks for possible cramps in the hamstring and thigh areas)
- Did you hear any unusual sounds from your body, like from your knee, while playing?
- Did you at any point during the game today clash heads with a teammate/opponent or fall with your head hitting the ground?
Answers to these questions form an initial assessment, helping a parent know if a minor injury may have occurred. Care should be taken to ask them without force as the child may be reluctant, especially if an important game or tournament they don’t want to miss is around the corner.
Treatment process for minor injuries
Minor injuries can be attended to by an individual or by parents, eliminating the immediate need to go to a doctor or see a specialist. When a child sustains a soft groin pain, twists an ankle, or muscles become sore, some steps can be taken within minutes to relieve pain and initiate a quick recovery process.
There are four steps to achieve relief for minor injuries namely, rest, ice, compression, and elevation. This four-step guide known as RICE is a first aid measure for addressing sprains, swelling, and bruises. When done appropriately, they can provide relief to the athlete between 15 minutes and 72 hours after the injury occurred. The process is relatively easy to understand and with the right equipment, straightforward to implement.
Rest: When the body is impacted resulting in pain, it is necessary for the player to allow for some time for the pain to leave. In other words, rest is a useful first step in responding to minor injuries. Even if the injury is not serious enough to require a player to stop playing in a match, some minutes of rest is still necessary. This can be observed during professional soccer where a player may be taken off the field for a minute or two after which they return to the pitch.
Ice: In cases of sprains or some painful collisions, the period of rest is accompanied with the application of a bag of ice to the affected part of the body. To produce optimal results, the ice wrap should last for 15 to 20 minutes at a time and repeated at 3-hour intervals over a three day period. This helps to reduce the pain. Ice also serves to apply pressure to the injury to reduce swelling. Not all occasions call for the use of ice. In fact, it should not be used if the swelling involves a nerve, if an athlete has cold hypersensitivity or before physical activity. Thus, in conjunction with the cold treatment, the introduction of heat to an injury may also have successful outcomes. Applying warm temperature to injuries can relieve pain and will improve blood flow. It is most useful in warming up stiff or scarred soft tissues before stretching or exercise. It is also effective for relieving pains in the neck and back injuries and can be accomplished using a heating pad for intervals of 15 to 20 minutes. These two methods of therapy can co-exist if you apply the cold first followed by the heat. For best results, each interval should not exceed 20 minutes.
Compression: Where a player has to be taken off the field, ice could be added to the injured area by wrapping it with elastic bandage or splint. To avoid worsening the injury, the bandage wrapping should not be too tight and the injured player should not sleep through the night wearing it. For adequate compression, the bandage should not be loose either.
Elevation: Injuries challenge the function of the body under usual conditions. Whereas blood would flow normally if your leg was in a horizontal position, an injury to a part of the lower extremities may require inclining the angle. A convenient way to achieve elevation is to rest the injured leg on a pillow. This optimizes blood flow and enhances healing.
When to See a Specialist Some injuries may look minor at first. But when certain symptoms persist, it will become necessary to visit a doctor or consult a specialist. Athletes should see a doctor when there is no relief after rest and home treatment, when the persisting pain affects training and performance and when a lack of definite treatment may be a risk to other teammates or competitors.Head injuries, whether moderate or severe, should be attended to as soon as possible. Should symptoms last for more than two weeks, the athlete should see a doctor. Players should be made to seek medical counsel when pain persistsin one’s foot for most of the day, a few weeks after the injury and when one has a swelling that has not healed two to five days after injury.
Parts of the Lower Extremity of the Body https://www.verywellhealth.com/lower-extremity-2549237
Soccer Injury: Six of the Most Common Injuries Soccer Players Suffer https://www.drdavidgeier.com/common-soccer-injuries/
Instructions Following An Acute Injury: Rest-Ice-Compression-Elevation (R.I.C.E.) https://www.thechildren.com/sites/default/files/PDFs/Trauma/posttraumacare/rice-following-acute-injury.pdf
What Is the RICE Method for Injuries? https://www.webmd.com/first-aid/rice-method-injuries
Important Facts About Hot and Cold Therapy Every Athlete Should Know https://www.mcdavidusa.com/blog/important-facts-hot-cold-therapy-every-athlete-know/
After a Sports Injury: When to See the Doctor