Does your child want to be the next Carli Lloyd or Lionel Messi? The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) offers tips to keep your young soccer player from being sidelined by injury.
Nearly 4 million children play soccer each year. Quick passes, dribbling, headers and punts make the game a fun, healthy way for children to stay active.
However, research shows youth soccer injuries may be increasing.
Athletes’ legs are affected the most. Common injuries are sprains, strains, bumps and bruises to the ankles and knees. Anterior cruciate ligament injuries also are a big problem, especially for girls. This is due to many reasons, including hormones, body shape and how the nerves and muscles work together.
Injuries are more common for high school soccer players than for players under 12.
Many high school injuries occur during illegal plays in games, according to a study of athletes at 100 high schools. These injuries were more likely to affect the head and neck than injuries that happened during legal play. Most concussions occur when the player’s head contacts another player, not the ball.
Enforcing rules of fair play can decrease these injuries, according to the AAP.
The AAP also advises that athletes do exercises to improve body awareness and positioning, nerve and muscle coordination, and strength. Proper sleep is important, too.
All children should have a routine well-child exam that includes a sports physical with their pediatrician.
When your athlete is ready for kickoff, make sure she uses proper equipment for practice and games.
- Wear protective gear, including shin guards, eyewear and mouthguards.
- Use the right size soccer ball. Select a ball labeled for the player’s age and inflate it according to instructions. Heading a ball that is too large or overinflated can cause head and neck injuries, the AAP says.
- Select footwear based on the playing surface. For outdoor play, soccer shoes with conical (cone-shaped) studs on the bottom offer more stability and faster release from the ground. Studies have linked shoes with bladed (arrow-shaped) studs or a combination of bladed and conical studs to higher injury risk.