Soccer Injuries Are on the Rise: What Parents Need to Know

Soccer has become an increasingly popular sport in the United States, both professionally and recreationally with over 3 million registered soccer players under 19 years of age playing in leagues every year.  Unfortunately, with the increase in kids playing there has been an increase in injuries. In fact, every day in the U.S. more than 328 children between 7 and 17 years of age are treated in a hospital emergency department for an injury they got while playing soccer.

The good news is that for most of these injuries, athletes are treated and sent home the same day. However, there has been a concerning increase in the number of head injuries from playing soccer. Young athletes take longer to recover from concussions than older athletes and they can put themselves at risk for second-impact syndrome and repeat concussions if they return to play to soon – both of which can lead to serious, life-altering injuries. It is important for athletes, parents, coaches and referees to know the signs and symptoms of concussions so they can report it right away if there is any chance an athlete may have a head injury.

We want kids to go out and be active. Soccer is a great way to do that, but like with any sport, there is a risk of injury. Help keep your athlete on the field by following a few guidelines.

  • Participate in a pre-season conditioning program that focuses on building core muscles, strengthening neck muscles, and working on hip and thigh strength.
  • Warm up before you play.
  • Always wear the recommended protective gear (shin guards, mouth guards).
  • Follow and enforce the rules. Many injuries occur during illegal play or when coaches or referees don’t enforce the rules. The rules are often put in place to prevent injuries, teach young athletes the importance of playing by the rules.
  • Learn about concussions. Know the symptoms of concussions and how to spot them. Encourage players to report any hits to the head even in if they happen in practice. Make sure to follow concussion management and return-to-play policies.
  • Consider limiting heading for younger players. Some leagues are now only allowing athletes to head the ball once they reach 11 years of age and are introducing it slowly by limiting the amount of heading in practice for children 11-13 years of age.

Learn more about soccer-related injuries and how to prevent them, here.

Tracy Mehan, MA
Tracy Mehan is the manager of translational research for the Center for Injury Research and Policy at the Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. In this role, she takes injury prevention research out of the journals and into the community. As the mother of a very active 12-year-old boy and an aunt to 21 nieces and nephews, she frequently gets to see firsthand the need for various injury prevention measures. When she isn’t out trying to save the world, you can find her on the basketball court with her son, with her nose in her kindle, or exploring websites on pirate trivia.

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