youth soccer, nutrition for youth athletes

Is it true that soccer could replace football? The World Cup got us all excited about soccer again, and now more kids are kicking around the ball than ever before. While youth football enrollment drops, youth soccer is on the rise. Limited contact and fewer youth sports injuries make soccer an attractive sport for many parents and kids. Soccer is popular than ever before, and early injury prevention can keep players on the field for many years. About 88,000 children between 5 and 14 seek treatment for a soccer injury each year. Let’s explore the most common youth soccer injuries. We will also look at prevention, intervention and treatment of youth soccer injuries.

5 Common Youth Soccer Injuries

According to Stanford Children’s Health, more than 3.5 million children under the age of 14 experience injuries. Injuries occur when participating in youth sports and other recreational activities. Take a look at the 5 common youth soccer injuries.

  • Concussion

A concussion can happen when a young player falls. It can also occur when a player gets hit in the head or collides with another player. Concussions are one of the most talked about injuries in all youth sports. It is important for everyone to identify the symptoms of a concussion. If a child suffers from a concussion, the symptoms may show up right away, or they may be delayed. Common symptoms are:

  • Loss of consciousness
  • Confusion
  • Headache
  • Blurred vision
  • Dizziness and trouble walking
  • Trouble talking, or slurred speech
  • Memory troubles
  • Excessive tiredness and/or unable to wake

If your child experiences any of these symptoms, take action. Parents and coaches must pull kids out of the game right away. Parents must observe their children for 24 to 72 hours after a head injury. If symptoms persist, or if your child experiences vomiting, severe headaches, or vertigo, contact the pediatrician right away.

  • Knee injury

Knee injuries can range from pain and bruising to tears and strains. All must be treated. If a child experiences knee pain, the player must not be forced to “tough it out” for the sake of the game. Overuse is one of the top contributors for knee pain and injuries. Symptoms of a knee injury include:

  • Pain in the knee
  • Swelling or bruising
  • Limited mobility and range of motion
  • Ankle injury

It is not uncommon to see kids on crutches or their ankles wrapped in bandages. Common ankle injuries in youth soccer players are direct blows, sprains, and in severe cases, breaks. Symptoms of an ankle sprain are:

  • Discomfort and soreness
  • Swelling
  • Unsteadiness
  • Inability to put weight on the foot

Depending on the severity of the symptoms, a physical therapist or physician may be needed to evaluate the injury. Physical Therapist can reduce pain and return the athlete to soccer activities.

  • Shin splints

The name alone is painful. Shin splints, or medial tibial stress syndrome, is pain in the lower leg. The pain is right where the muscle attaches to the shin (tibia). Overuse and injury can cause shin splints. Symptoms of shin splints are:

  • Pain during running
  • Tenderness
  • Inflammation

Shin splints won’t go away by running through the pain. A young soccer play needs to rest. Ice massage is effective in treating shin splints. In some cases, a physical therapist or physician will recommend rehabilitation exercises to ease pain, promote recovery, and prevent future injuries. Soft tissue mobilization or Graston techniques on the tibialis anterior can also reduce pain.

  • Muscle strains

Young bodies are still growing, which means muscle strains can happen. Again, overuse is the common culprit. Symptoms of muscle strains are:

  • Pain
  • Swelling
  • Achiness
  • Decreases performance and stamina

Causes and Prevention

Overuse is a common cause for youth soccer injuries. Overuse is, however, not the only culprit. Additional causes of youth sports injuries include:

  • Lack of stretching
  • Improper stretching
  • Exhaustion
  • Lack of training
  • Improper training
  • No warm-up
  • No cool-down
  • Dirty play

Now that you know what the common causes are, it is time to look at prevention techniques. To prevent common youth soccer injuries, consider the following tips:

  • Teach young athletes proper body mechanics and techniques.
  • Enroll kids in strength-training programs.
  • Focus on the warm-up and cool-down just as much as the game.
  • Give children the space to express their concerns and pains.
  • Don’t force children to “tough it out” when they are injured.
  • Condemn “dirty plays”.
  • Prevent overuse.

Soccer is fun, and kids can learn a lot in the sport. Don’t let an injury pull them out of the game for good. With proper training, attention to injuries, and smart-play strategies, kids can enjoy soccer for years to come.