It is always an exciting time watching World Cup soccer. It’s even more exciting watching from our Oakville Physio clinic knowing the World Cup is coming to North America!
Watching the best in the world playing a sport when every match matters makes for fast and sometimes chippy games. While lower extremity injuries tend to be very common in soccer, we forget that it really is a contact sport that can result in injury all over the body. Adequate training, including sleep and recovery can help prevent many “typical” soccer injuries. Included in this training would be strengthening exercises that may make an athlete more substantial and forceful. This is helpful in front of the net during corner kicks and while making an offensive push for the net.
We’ll break down some common injuries from a Physio perspective, and how to prevent them as well as preventing re-injury.
Ankle sprains are common in soccer. While the World Cup pitches tend to be well manicured, many fields as a season progresses has divots and irregularities. Stepping into these area can lead to ankle sprains or “twisted ankles”. Another common way soccer players sprain an ankle is by stepping on another players foot or another player stepping on their foot. While many of these mechanisms are beyond the control of a player, prevention of re-injury is possible. This can be done through hip strengthening and specific dynamic exercises.
Knee Ligament injuries (ACL, MCL)
Knee on knee contact, plant and twist injuries and even landing improperly from headers can lead to ligamentous injuries of the knee. The medial collateral ligament (MCL) runs vertically on the inside of the knee. This can be sprained with a force from the outside of the knee causing a separation of the joint surfaces on the inside. An anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) sprain may accompany an MCL sprain, or can be a stand alone injury. These are common with acceleration / decelerations, plant and twist and hyperextension of the knee. Women and girl soccer players can be at a higher risk of ACL injuries due to an increased Q-angle (the angle from the hip to the knee). Proprioceptive, hip and leg strengthening and dynamic control exercises are helpful in prevention as well as rehabilitation.
Muscle strains such as quadriceps strains (front thigh muscles), hamstring strains (back thigh muscle), and calf strains are common in soccer. Proper training that includes endurance training, speed, and strengthening can help prevent theses types of injuries. Proper rest and recovery is also advantageous. A muscle strain occurs when the muscle is either stretched beyond its capacity or from a forceful contraction beyond its capabilities. The latter may also be after fatigue, for example at the end of a game or the last day of a tournament weekend. Muscle strains are graded on a spectrum related to function and symptoms. In mild strains, only a few fibres of the muscle are stretched or torn. The overall muscle remains intact and strong. In more severe strains, the strained muscle may be torn and unable to function properly.
Proper rehab and recovery includes compression and progressive strengthening of the tissues. The body has a natural rate of healing and building / strengthening and successful return to sport requires respect of these facts.
In many of these injuries an athlete may be feeling much better with no, or little pain, but they haven’t necessarily optimized their recovery. There is a tendency for people to leave Physiotherapy earlier than they should. That being said, if a person in consistent and independent with their home program, it may not be necessary for them to attend Physiotherapy. It may be effective for them to check in and be reassessed and have their exercises progressed and reviewed.