Published: Mar. 23, 2011
Updated: Mar. 23, 2011
Whether you’re a superstar or just starting out, avoiding injuries on the soccer field begins with information.
Parents of young soccer players can take valuable lessons from current trends in soccer injuries, to keep their kids in the game and out of the urgent care waiting room.
There’s been a rise in overuse injuries among kids who start playing competitive soccer at a young age and play year-round, says Duke sports medicine expert David Berkoff, MD.
“When kids are growing and their muscles are catching up and developing, their bodies can develop weakness or imbalances,” he says.
His advice? If your child experiences pain several days in a row, get him or her to a doctor to be evaluated. And make sure your young player gets an off-season that includes a physical assessment.
Since soccer injury rates rise after age 12, injury prevention programs become important once soccer players reach middle school. “But is it practical for every player to go through these?” asks physician assistant John Lohnes, another soccer specialist at Duke.
“Will they ever realistically have the time and coaching expertise to devote to injury prevention? Like any program, it only works if you do it.”
Physical therapist Kelly Hess, who directs Duke’s soccer outreach program, says the team preaches the injury prevention gospel as loudly as they can. “Kids are not as worried about injury prevention,” she says.
“They want to get stronger and faster to be better soccer players, but we’re trying to teach athletes and their parents that injury prevention helps with speed and agility as well as minimizing injuries. But it takes more than one week at a camp to apply the principles taught. You need to do a lot of work on your own to see results.”
Hess offers some exercise suggestions for young soccer players looking to prime their bodies to play and avoid injury.
If your child has just begun playing soccer, he or she should first develop coordination and body control. Skipping, jumping rope, playing hopscotch, or doing grapevine patterns can sharpen both.
Older, more serious soccer players benefit from more specific training.
Consistency is essential, but Hess cautions that using proper form is even more crucial. If you’re unsure whether you’re doing an exercise correctly, seek assistance from a physical therapist.
Contact Kelly Hess, Duke Sports Medicine soccer outreach coordinator, at 919-314-7670 or firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule an appointment with a soccer sports medicine specialist.