A blog for the West Coast Auto Group Football Club:
Although this blog is about injuries in Soccer, especially children, I want to first make the point that regular physical activity and physical fitness are important for the health of children. Further, participation in youth sport is associated with increased levels of activity as the child goes through to adulthood. These benefits often outweigh any risks of injury.
Soccer may appear as an 'easier' sport in terms of injury risk, however, it is a high intensity sport involving frequent changes in direction and velocity, players are also involved in tackling and some of these are high impact situations. The basics of soccer therefore carry some risk for injury.
Recently, Rossler et al (2015) published an epidemiology study investigating the location, type and severity of injuries in children 7-12 years. This was a large study with a total of 395,295 hours of soccer exposure. A total of 417 injuries were sustained by 329 players, this equated to 5.7% of players sustaining at least 1 injury per season. The study also revealed (not surprisingly) that there was a greater chance of injury during match play than there was during training. Almost half of the injuries (48.7%) were minor with absence from soccer less than 8 days. Twenty seven percent missed up to 4 weeks and twenty three percent missed more than a month.
Most injuries were to the lower limbs (76.3%), upper limb injuries were less common (15.6%) and injuries to the head were the least (6.2%). The most common injury involved joints and ligaments (30%) followed by contusions (22%), muscle and tendon injuries (18%) and bone injuries (15%).
The most common injury (joints and ligaments) mainly affected the ankle (55%), then the knee (16%) and finally the muscle-tendon regions of the hip/groin. Interestingly, the bone injuries were mostly upper limb fractures, which occurred due to player contact or falling. Non-fracture bone injuries were mainly due to overuse/stress and occurred mainly at the knee and foot.
Despite the risk of injury being relatively low, there are some opportunities to reduce this further. The authors suggest that learning falling techniques such as those in martial arts may be helpful at preventing the fractures associated with falling. Training to enhance spatial orientation skills may help with unwanted player to player contact. Also important is the recognition of mild complaints early on and ensuring appropriate rest and re-conditioning to avoid more serious or prolonged issues.
As lower limb injuries are the most common and the ankle is the most affected in this age group, exercises to improve balance, stability and strength are also important preventative tools. Recently a prevention program (FIFA 11+ kids) has shown some small but broad improvements in motor performance as well as injury reduction. These exercises should be conducted in a supervised environment with someone that understands movement and movement disorders.
Here is a video of the FIFA 11+
Read more about the FIFA 11+ program here
Written by Roland Fletcher, Registered Physiotherapist & Clinical Assistant Professor, UBC.
· Bizzini, M., & Dvorák, J. (2015). FIFA 11+: An effective programme to prevent football injuries in various player groups worldwide—a narrative review. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 49(9), 577–579.
· Rössler, R., Donath, L., Bizzini, M., & Faude, O. (2015). A new injury prevention programme for children’s football – FIFA 11+ Kids – can improve motor performance: a cluster-randomised controlled trial. Journal of Sports Sciences, 1–8.
· Rössler, R., Junge, A., Chomiak, J., Dvorák, J., & Faude, O. (2015). Soccer Injuries in Players Aged 7 to 12 Years: A Descriptive Epidemiological Study Over 2 Seasons. The American Journal of Sports Medicine, 1–10.