Are you considering a new spring sport for yourself or your child? If you’re thinking about soccer, good choice! This sport is popular worldwide and helps develop great coordination and endurance skills.
But before you start—or even if you’ve been playing for years—it’s important to know the potential injury risks you face. This article will look at the risks specifically for male collegiate players.
In order to determine the most common injuries in men’s soccer and how they occur, researchers reviewed 15 years of injury surveillance data from the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). Over the 15 years of the study, 6,693 injuries from more than 22 ,000 games and 6,281 injuries from more than 62 ,000 practices were reported.1
Some of the general findings illustrate how practices and games pose different risks for players:
- The injury rate during games was 4 times higher than during practices.
- Game injuries were often contact injuries between players, while practice injuries were often not.
- In both games and practices, more than 60% of injuries were in the lower extremities.
The Most Common Injury: Ankle Sprain
Accounting for 17% of all injuries in both games and practices, a sprained ankle is by far the most common injury for male soccer players. This makes sense, as ankle sprains are often caused when you make a sudden stop or change of direction, causing the ankle to twist unnaturally.
Ankle sprains are seldom serious injuries and can usually be treated by following the RICE (rest, ice, compression, elevate) protocol. However, ankles that have not thoroughly healed are vulnerable to re-sprains. In fact, recurrent ankle sprains accounted for 24% of the total sprains in the survey.
Other Top Soccer Injuries for Men
There were also clear trends for other types of injuries that soccer players are prone to. All of these injuries rank in the top 5 of injuries that were experienced either in practice or games:
- Muscle-tendon injuries to the upper leg—this included injuries to the quadriceps and hamstring muscles. See: How Do Hamstring Tears Occur?
- Muscle-tendon injuries to the hip or pelvis—because of the complex anatomy of this part of the body, injuries to the soft tissues of the hip and pelvis are often described under the general label of sports hernia (athletic pubalgia).
- Knee injuries—these included tears in ligaments like the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) or to the meniscus.
- Concussion—because of the likelihood of player-on-player contact during games, concussions were 14 times more likely to occur during a game than during practice. See: Concussion Causes and Risk Factors
The researchers concluded their survey by noting that, since player contact accounted for a majority of the injuries during soccer games, the best way to prevent these injuries is to make sure the rules around aggressive game moves like charging and tackling—particularly slide tackling—are followed and enforced.
- Descriptive Epidemiology of Collegiate Men's Soccer Injuries: National Collegiate Athletic Association Injury Surveillance System, 1988–1989 Through 2002–2003. J Athl Train. 2007 Apr-Jun; 42(2): 270–277.