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Competitive Youth Soccer & Injury Prevention

Sports injuries are common in youth athletes. They often suffer sprains, strains, bruises, or broken bones. In soccer, the most common injuries are to the leg, from a twisted knee or ankle to a direct blow from a kick or collision.

Most youth injuries are due to overuse or over-exertion. Soccer players may have shin splints (soreness in the front of the leg between the knee and ankle), patella tendinitis (pain just below the knee cap), achilles tendinitis (pain in the back of the ankle) and stress fractures (break in the bone).

It may be difficult to tell the difference between stress fractures and soft tissue injuries, so if pain persists after a few days of rest, it is best to see your doctor.

Many injuries are preventable. Several ways to avoid injury include:

  • Use good equipment. Make sure your child has well-fitting cleats and shin guards, and use synthetic balls instead of leather ones that can become heavy and waterlogged, and increase head injuries.
  • Stay hydrated. Kids need to be reminded and encouraged to drink plenty of water.
  • Stay in good condition. Athletes who are in better physical shape tend to have fewer injuries. If your child has been away from sports for a while, allow him or her to gradually progress with activities like strength, agility training, and aerobic conditioning.
  • Avoid overuse injuries. Many young athletes participate in one sport year-round and tend to over train. It is important to allow time for rest and recovery as opposed to continuing to push through pain and discomfort. This leads to burnout and also increases the chance of injury.  Teach your child to listen to his or her body and pay attention to warning signs.

Training programs are available that teach exercises and strategies which decrease the chance of athletic injuries. Also consider consulting a sports medicine physician or physical therapist to develop a specific plan that will help your young athlete prevent injuries.

Dr. Mark Wood is an orthopedist at Wake Orthopaedics.

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