Updated: Jan 3, 2022
Soccer is the most popular team sport in the world, with hundreds of millions of players worldwide. Participation has continued to rise in the past few decades with the increase of organized sports leagues and normalization of female athletics. It is an unfortunate consequence that participation in sports leads to increased risk of injury. A further consequence is that injury often leads to costs. With an estimated cost of tens of billions of dollars worldwide, annually. (1)
So it benefits the sports medicine community to know how common injuries are in sport, what are the most common injuries, and can these injuries be prevented or mitigated?
Giza and Micheli found in their 2005 literature review that youth soccer is a relatively safe sport overall; with an injury incidence ranging from 2.3 per 1,000 practice hours to 14.8 per 1,000 game hours. Most injuries occurred in the lower extremities, specifically the knee and ankle (which is similar to findings in adult soccer injuries). Simple contusions are the most common injury; minor-moderate injuries comprise the high majority of injuries. Head injuries in youth soccer are low and almost never occur from head to ball contact.
Injury Onset: 18% of injuries were overuse injuries (meaning most are acutely occurring)
Location: approximately 60% of injuries involved the legs, with knees and ankles being the most common (that’s also true for adults). Arm injuries account for 20% (this is higher than for adults)
Injury Type: contusions represent (25-47%), sprains (which includes all grades, I-III with III being a complete ligamentous tear) represent (20-35%), muscular strains (8-25%), and fractures/dislocations are less common (3-12%).
Knee injuries: account for up to 25% of all injuries. There is an alarmingly high rate of anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injuries in young female soccer players. Female soccer players have been found to have a 4-8x higher rate of ACL injuries than their male counterparts (see ACL injury prevention post)
Ankle injuries: account for 15-30% of all injuries depending on the study you reference. (see ankle injury prevention post)
What can be done??
Preseason Conditioning: preseason neuromuscular training and plyometrics can decrease knee injuries rates in female soccer players (this has also been researched and found affected in high school soccer, basketball, and volleyball players). Another study of 12 year old male soccer players found that a 10 week program of specific plyometric training improved jump, running, and sprint performance- even two months after finishing with the training program.
A second group of researchers in 2013 also researched the common injuries in youth soccer players.. I’ll save you the tedium of more stats and reading- as they essentially found the same things in terms of rates of injury, distribution of injury locations, and concluding that preventative training can assist in decreasing risk of injuries. (2)
So All hope is not lost! It is clear from research that, though there are common trends with soccer related injuries, there is also training to be done to help decrease risk. Take advantage of pre-season training to prevent in-season injuries. Contact us below to discuss how this can work for you or your child.
1) Giza E, Micheli LJ. Soccer injuries. Med Sport Sci. 2005;49:140-169. doi: 10.1159/000085395. PMID: 16247265.
2) Faude O, Rößler R, Junge A. Football injuries in children and adolescent players: are there clues for prevention? Sports Med. 2013 Sep;43(9):819-37. doi: 10.1007/s40279-013-0061-x. PMID: 23723046.