Youth soccer is a tremendously popular year-round sport with many physical fitness benefits, but, as with any contact sport, it carries a risk of injury to players that should be discussed with the family pediatrician.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), in a comprehensive review of the most recent research, will publish the clinical report, “Soccer Injuries in Children and Adolescents,” in the November 2019 Pediatrics.
“Families, soccer players and coaches should be aware of the most common types of injuries — from sprains and fractures to concussions – so that we can work together to prevent them,” said Andrew Watson, MD, MS, FAAP, a lead author of the report, generated by the AAP Council on Sports Medicine and Fitness.
“We know that there are circumstances when players are more likely to get hurt. Our report describes the research behind ways to improve safety on the field, such as specific neuromuscular training programs and an adherence to the rules, that can potentially improve the safety of our young athletes.”
As the rate of soccer participation soared from 1990 through 2014 — rising by an estimated 90% — the numbers of injuries reported rose dramatically, as well. One retrospective study of 25 years of emergency department visits showed the annual number of soccer-related injuries among 7 to 17-year-olds per 10,000 soccer participants increased 111 % from 1990 to 2014.
The majority of youth soccer injuries result from player-to-player contact, with a significantly higher proportion of injuries occurring during competition rather than practice, according to one study. More athletes are suffering concussions and anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injuries, particularly female players.
The AAP recommends:
- Neuromuscular training programs that teach proper landing and stopping techniques and develop balance.
- An emphasis on fair play, rule enforcement and proper, age-appropriate heading techniques to reduce risk of concussion.
- Injury reduction strategies including the completion of a preparticipation examination prior to the start of the season; proper hydration and rest; modification of activities in hot, humid weather; use of appropriately sized shin guards and mouth guards; and use of protective eyewear.
- Basic Life Support training of coaches and placement of automated external defibrillators at practice and competition sites.
The clinical report also examines research concerning other safety gear, footwear, playing field turf or grass, and environmental conditions.
“We encourage kids to participate in athletic activities, especially team sports, in order to develop skills, as well as build fitness and confidence while having fun. Playing soccer is a great way to achieve these goals,” said Jeffrey M. Mjaanes, MD, FAAP, a lead author of the report. “We just want to be sure they play safely and leave the field with a smile, not a limp.”