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Avoid Soccer Injuries in Your Kids

The school team. The town team. The travel team. If your young soccer player is on the field for several games or practices a week, it may be too much.

Most injuries occur in the 10- to 14-year-old age group. Younger players are more susceptible to injury because they're still growing.

And whenever participation in a sport rises, there are bound to be more injuries. According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS), each year more than 477,500 soccer-related injuries are treated by health care professionals.

Injuries are more likely when kids are out of shape. Experts say it's not a good idea for a child to be inactive all summer and then play in three soccer leagues in the fall. Increase playing time gradually by no more than 10 to 20 percent each week. Children should be on teams that are not only age-appropriate but size-appropriate.

Though most injuries were sprains, strains, bruises and fractures, there's a growing concern about head injuries. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) says that most severe head injuries in soccer are caused by collisions with other players or with the goal posts. But there have also been questions about the safety of heading the ball. The AAP recommends discouraging heading until the child can learn the skills needed to do this safely, with the proper technique. A player should never be forced to head a ball.

The AAOS recommends the following to prevent soccer injuries:

  • Take time to warm up and stretch, especially the hips, knees, thighs and calves--cold muscles are more prone to injury.

  • Wear shin guards to help protect your lower legs.

  • Wear shoes with molded cleats or ribbed soles, not cleats that are screwed into the soles. Screw-in cleats should be worn when more traction is needed, such as on a wet field with high grass.

  • Don’t allow players to crawl or sit on the goal, or hang from the net.

  • Pad and properly secure goal posts to decrease the incidence of head injuries during collisions with the posts.

  • Keep playing fields in good repair.

  • Wear protective eyewear.

Online Resources

American Academy of Pediatrics  http://aappolicy.aappublications.org/cgi/reprint/pediatrics;125/2/410.pdf
American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons  http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=A00187

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