When Soccer Gets Down and Dirty

Soccer injuries increase as athletes age with most occurring on lower half of body

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D

(RxWiki News) Maybe soccer players need more than shin pads. Young athletes can take some major blows and bruises during practice and games. And the number of injuries increase as players get older.

Between 1 and 4 youth soccer injuries occurred for every 1,000 hours of training, a recently published study found. Among those injuries, 60 to 90 percent were bruises, concussions and fractures.

"Children are regarded as the future of our society, and, therefore, their health should be of particular importance," said the lead researcher.

These findings suggest injury prevention programs should start as early as possible. And continue for all players regardless of age.

"Encourage kids to play safe on the field."

Researchers under the direction of Oliver Faude, PhD, from the Institute of Exercise and Health Sciences at the University of Basel in Switzerland, investigated how often children and adolescents got injured while playing soccer in order to develop injury recommendation programs.

The researchers looked at 53 previously published studies performed through November 2012. About two-thirds of the studies were included in the analysis while the rest were used to look more broadly at the occurrence of injuries.

Some of the included studies analyzed injuries that happened in different sports or age groups. In total, 21 studies reported the number of injuries that occurred.

The researchers noted the types of injuries and the places on the body that they occurred.

On average, between 1 and 5 injuries occurred for every 1,000 hours of training, the researchers found. The number of injuries sustained by players while training was constant for players between 13 and 19 years of age.

The number of injuries during match play increased as the athletes got older. Specifically, about 15 to 20 injuries occurred for every 1,000 hours of play in a match among athletes older than 15 years old.

Between 60 and 90 percent of all soccer injuries were categorized as traumatic. Another 10 to 40 percent were classified as overuse injuries.

The researchers also found some evidence that the risk of fractures, concussions and bruises, which occurred between 10 and 40 percent of the time, was higher during match play than practice.

Fractures in particular occurred more often in children younger than 15 years of age than in older players.

And between 60 and 90 percent of the injuries were located on the lower part of the body with the knee, ankle and thigh affected most.

Most of the injuries that occurred on the head, face and upper extremities were reported more often in the studies that looked at match injuries only.

"Due to the different injury proļ¬le and maturation status of children, preventive programs that have proven effective in late adolescent or adult players need to be adapted and their effects evaluated in younger age groups," the researchers wrote in their report.

"Injury rates in young children may be the lowest within the sport, but due to the high number of participants, injury prevention programs can result in a substantial public health impact with outcomes similar to a recent successful national implementation of a [soccer] prevention program."

Half of the injuries caused child athletes to miss the sport less than a week. Another third were out between a week and a month.

In determining injury prevention techniques, researchers said that attention should be paid to the number of severe contact injuries and fractures that occur during matches, as well as the influence of growth spurts and how mature the kids become.

"Future injury prevention strategies, thus, need a broader research focus," the researchers wrote. "Children usually are regarded as the future of our society, and, therefore, their health should be of particular importance."

Further research into soccer injuries among kids and adolescents should look into the risk factors for injury and how exactly the injuries occurred compared to adults, researchers said.

The study, funded by FIFA, was published in the May 2013 issue of the journal Sports Medicine. No conflicts of interest were declared.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
June 14, 2013
Last Updated:
August 6, 2013