The leaves are falling from the trees and that means winter sports are just around the corner! We see a wide variety of athletes playing and participating in winter sports and naturally, we see a wide variety of injuries and complaints. Today I’m going to discuss with you a few of our most common lower limb injuries with one of the more popular winter sports – Soccer.
Injuries to the lower extremities are the most common type in Soccer. These injuries can be severely traumatic, such as a kick to the leg or a twist to the knee resulting in a catastrophic fracture or serious ligament damage, or result from overuse of a muscle, tendon, or bone.
WHAT ARE SOME COMMON Soccer INJURIES?
Lower Extremity Injuries
Sprains and strains are the most common lower extremity injuries. The severity of these injuries varies widely from age group and level of competitiveness. Age can also play a large factor in the occurrence of these injuries. Cartilage tears and anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) sprains in the knee are some of the more common injuries that may require surgery or extensive time on the sidelines with physiotherapy. Other injuries include fractures and contusions from direct blows to the body.
Overuse Lower Extremity Injuries
Shin splints (soreness in the calf), patellar tendinitis (pain in the knee), and Achilles tendinitis (pain in the back of the ankle) are some of the more common Soccer overuse conditions that. We also see plenty of other variations of posterior ankle and foot injuries occurring during this time of the year from overuse and often it can be resolved with a simple fix like some stretching or even a new pair of boots. Soccer players are also prone to groin pulls and thigh and calf muscle strains.
Stress fractures occur when the bone becomes weak from overuse. It is often difficult to distinguish stress fractures from soft tissue injury as the symptoms are similar the dysfunction and diminished quality of life can be very frustrating and ongoing. These can be a little bit more difficult to heal, especially if there is a delay in their diagnosis.
If pain develops in any part of your lower extremity and does not clearly improve after a few days of rest, a health professional like your podiatrist should be consulted to determine whether a stress fracture is present.
HOW ARE INJURIES TREATED?
Participation should be stopped immediately until any injury is evaluated and treated properly. Most injuries are relatively minor and can be treated by a short period of rest, ice, and elevation and some modifications to training or gameplay. Often this is temporary to ensure adequate rest and recovery but also to maintain fitness and strength so when you are fit enough to resume normal activities, you are not prone to reinjuring yourself
An injured athlete should return to play only when clearance is granted by a health care professional.
Overuse injuries can be treated with a short period of rest, which means that the athlete can continue to perform or practice some activities with modifications that are specific in nature to the injury sustained. This may be a reduced training workload to decrease fatigue or additional work on an area identified as a possible weakness/cause of the original injury. These modifications are usually guided by a Podiatrist or a sports trainer which an emphasis on rehabilitation.
In many cases, pushing through pain can be harmful, especially for stress fractures, knee ligament injuries, and any injury to the head or neck. Contact your doctor for proper diagnosis and treatment of any injury that does not improve after a few days of rest.
You should return to play only when clearance is granted by a health care professional.
- Have a pre-season physical examination and follow your doctor’s recommendations. This is especially important if you are playing in an older age competition or have had previous health issues/injuries in the past that have required treatment
- Use well-fitting cleats and shin guards — there is some evidence that molded and multi-studded cleats are safer than screw-in cleats
- Be aware of poor field conditions that can increase injury rates
- Hydrate adequately — waiting until you are thirsty is often too late to hydrate properly
- Maintain proper fitness — injury rates are higher in athletes who have not adequately prepared physically.
- After a period of inactivity, progress gradually back to full-contact Soccer through activities such as aerobic conditioning, strength training, and agility training.
- Avoid overuse injuries — more is not always better!
- Listen to your body and decrease training time and intensity if pain or discomfort develops. This will reduce the risk of injury and help avoid “burn-out”
Speak with a sports medicine professional or athletic trainer if you have any concerns about injuries or Soccer injury prevention strategies
This information is geared toward soccer specifically but the overall theme and information can still be applied as a general rule to many of our winter sports, particularly rugby league, union, and Australian rules.
Good luck to all our athletes!
The Team From Sutherland Podiatry Centre