Soccer is a high energy contact sport which involves a great deal of repetitive impact strains on the body over the course of a single game. As any soccer fan will attest, the range of injuries that can occur over the course of a single game, whether that be a full 90-minute match or a shorter amateur game between friends, is fairly extensive. Many of these injuries require immediate treatment if a player is going to continue playing. Moreover, many more may necessitate a player going off for the whole game – or longer.
Regardless of the length, most soccer matches will have a half-time period where many minor injuries are attended to, or various physiotherapy techniques are employed in order to shore up a player against the chance of further injury back on the pitch. With soccer (as with most contact sports) a fast response is important, and soccer games of all professional levels will feature physiotherapists and other health professionals on hand to treat injuries mid-game or at half time. For the same reasons, first aid kits and bags are an omnipresent feature at soccer matches. A speedy response, after all, can make all the difference.
Soccer is a sport that puts a strain on nearly every area of the body and accordingly soccer injuries can vary across a very wide spectrum of severity, from a simple next-day muscle ache to far more serious cases of shoulder dislocations and concussions. Treatment of such injuries and preparation techniques to ensure they are dealt with effectively is a science that has developed a great deal over the long-time soccer has reigned as the most popular sport on the planet.
Treatment and prevention approaches are constantly developing and being refined to offer maximum effectiveness and ease of delivery. Upon a soccer player receiving an injury in a game, a speedy assessment is of the utmost importance to ascertain what treatment is to be used and whether or not the player will be going back out on the pitch. As soccer risks injury to every area of the body, soccer physiotherapists must be ready to treat the full range of possible physical injuries.
Unsurprisingly then, the treatment and prevention approaches that have been developed (and are still being developed) to treat the various injuries a soccer player may receive can vary a great deal too. Of course, there are some injuries that are simply far more common than others. These injuries in particular are the ones a soccer physiotherapist must be ready to treat at a moment’s notice. These are also the injuries that prevention techniques can be developed to decrease the likelihood of them occurring, or at least the severity, when they do occur.
Below are some of the latest treatment and prevention approaches for the most common soccer injuries.
Quad, Hamstring, and Groin Strains
Along with knee injuries, pulling a muscle in the quadriceps (front of thigh), hamstring (back of thigh), or the groin area is probably the most common soccer injury. The high-energy repetitive movements, the long stretches players often make to reach the ball with their legs and simply the amount of running involved in a game of soccer all contribute to making such injuries so common.
Treatment of such injuries begins with a proper diagnosis. Most of this comes from the player themselves. The first things to be checked is whether or not a player can move the limb and whether or not there is any swelling or bruising around the area of the injury. If the limb cannot be moved without significant pain or there is visible swelling or bruising, then the player cannot continue to play and the rehabilitation process begins. An MRI scan is now a common approach to assess whether there has been any tearing of the muscle.
The first thing a soccer physiotherapist will do upon treating an injury of this kind is to apply ice. Treatment with cold reduces inflammation and swelling and is usually applied for the first 24 hours, after which heat treatment is typically applied.
Although quite common, quad, hamstring, or groin injuries are rarely the most severe. Nevertheless, a player can still be unable to play for some length of time afterward. Studies made on professional soccer players have shown that players miss on average two to three games on account of such injuries.
Preventative techniques for quad, hamstring, or groin injuries mainly revolve around the importance of a good warm-up. A warm-up that lasts at least twenty minutes and involves extended stretching exercises for the muscles in question is all but essential. Without a good warm-up, the likelihood of sustaining such an injury increases significantly.
After quad, hamstring, and groin injuries, knee injuries are the next most common among soccer players. Again, the varied and high-energy motion of the legs in a typical game of soccer is that which makes this injury so common.
Again, diagnosis involves checking for pain when moving and swelling and bruising in the affected area. An MRI scan may again be necessary for checking for more serious injury and ice followed by heat treatment is again the first port of call for a physiotherapist treating knee injuries on the pitch.
Recovery from a knee injury often involves binding the affected area, keeping it elevated for the majority of the down time a player will have to undergo treatment. Again, it is typical for a player to miss around three games from a sufficiently severe knee injury.
Achilles Tendon Injuries
The Achilles tendon is the largest and strongest tendon in the body. For this reason, injuries sustained during soccer play are rarer but also typically more severe if not treated.
Although the Achilles tendon can be injured suddenly, it is far more common for the issue to develop gradually. For this reason, identifying the early symptoms before a snap or rupture can occur is essential. Tenderness just above the heel, early morning stiffness, and pain when walking or climbing stairs are the most frequent symptoms.
If the injury is sufficiently advanced, a plaster cast around the tendon may be necessary, and recovery can take a very long time. A player will usually be referred to an orthopedic specialist and embark on a rehabilitation program. For this reason, early diagnosis is a big responsibility of both the physiotherapist and the player.
A game of soccer typically involves many high energy collisions as players vie for control of the ball. The head is also used frequently in the game to “header” the ball in the desired direction. For this reason, concussions are unfortunately one of the more severe soccer injuries and unfortunately remain fairly common.
Diagnosis is particularly important for concussions as the severity has to be assessed. A physiotherapist will therefore check for such symptoms as dizziness, nausea, and changes in vision and hearing. If the concussion is sufficiently severe, the next step may well be a referral for MRI or CT scans.
Injuries such as swelling and bruising are typically dealt with by the same techniques as mentioned above. However, any cognitive damage requires immediate referral to medical specialists.
Ultimately, soccer injuries can vary a lot. The key job of an on-the-scene physiotherapist will be to assess the damage and take the right course of action. It is this which can prevent the most serious long-term conditions.