When we are out on the pitch practicing or playing, we usually don’t think we are going to get injured. But that is sometimes a reality with soccer so we have to be proactive in preventing injuries and once they occur, deal with them properly. Here is a Q&A with Amber Eubanks (MS, ATC), an athletic trainer at the University of Portland. She also works with US Soccer.
Q: What are some common soccer injuries?
According to the NCAA, 50 percent of all injuries are lower extremity, 14 percent being ankle ligaments. It has been my experience that ankles are the most typically injured during soccer. Knee injuries are also very common. Most people think ACLs (anterior cruciate ligaments) are most prevalent, but MCLs (medial collateral ligament) have been more common for me (knock on wood).
Upper extremities, although not as common in soccer, do still occur. This can happen if an athlete falls wrong or gets caught in an opponent’s jersey.
Concussions are also a common injury and frequently occur without being properly diagnosed by a physician. There are new guidelines in the NCAA for head injuries. Each head injury must be seen by a physician initially and again when returning back to play. It is very important to take every head injury seriously!
Q: Can the types of surfaces you play on increase the likelihood of getting an injury?
There has been research that states there is an increase in torque on an artificial surface. However, there is also research stating the interface between the cleat and surface is more important than the playing surface itself when preventing injuries. So it is important to wear the correct shoe for the playing surface you are on.
Q: What kind of diet should you eat to help your body be able to endure the rigors of soccer?
The biggest thing I have found with my athletes is eating close enough to competition to have enough energy throughout without feeling too full. As far as what to eat, I am a firm believer in making sure you have a carbohydrate and a protein before competition. Carbs are the best quick source of energy for your body. It is also fine to eat a small snack during half time. My teams are very fond of Clif Bar's Shot Bloks, which have electrolytes and carbs to help replenish the body. It is also important to drink enough water. This is the biggest mistake athletes make is not drinking till they are thirsty. It is important to drink regularly throughout the day to be sufficiently hydrated. Also avoid big, high fat meals before competition, as they are too hard to digest. Some easy meals are sandwiches, chicken and rice or pasta with a red sauce (if the acidity doesn't bother you).
Q: If you or your child sustains a head injury, mild to severe, should you or your child be examined by a medical professional?
As stated earlier, it is important to have you or your child, at the very least, see an athletic trainer. Head injuries are not something to mess around with, so it is not a bad idea to have a doctor take a look.
Q: What kind of preventative measures can you take regarding injuries?
It is important to keep up fitness. Most injuries occur during preseason and if you start getting tired. It is also imperative to work on balance and proprioception. Neuromuscular conditioning programs have been shown to reduce ACL sprain risk by 50 percent. Multidirectional ankle stability exercises are also very beneficial for soccer players. If there is a reoccurring ankle injury, it is important to be taped or braced as well as getting on a strengthening program.