Preventing Soccer Injuries

Abstract & Commentary

Synopsis: Soccer is the most popular sport in the world and played by more than 240 million athletes. The incidence of injury is staggering and reaches greater than 30 injuries per 1000 match hours. Many neuromuscular training programs have been established to decrease injury, but this program is unique because it addresses youth soccer.

Source: Junge A, et al. Prevention of soccer injuries: A prospective intervention study in youth amateur players. Am J Sports Med. 2002; 30(5):652-659.

The purpose of this prospective, controlled, intervention study was to evaluate the effects of an injury prevention program on the incidence of soccer injuries in male, youth amateur players. Seven soccer teams from Switzerland enrolled their athletes and coaches in a prevention program. The program focused on education and supervision of coaches and players. Seven control teams were instructed to train and play soccer under their current training program. Both groups recorded injury incidence and player participation. Injury reports were completed weekly for 194 players. The study identified an injury incidence of 6.7 in the injury prevention group and 8.5 in the control group per 1000 hours of training. Therefore, 21% fewer injuries were identified in the injury prevention group. Junge and colleagues concluded that the incidence of soccer injuries could be reduced by participation in an injury prevention group.

Comment by James R. Slauterbeck, MD

Soccer participation is on the rise among the youth of the world. The number of injuries among them is staggering. The purpose of this study is to protect our youth from significant injuries that may alter their athletic careers and general well-being. Significant injuries are far too common an event in our athletic population. The long-term outcome of these injuries and their treatments is not known; therefore, prevention is the best remedy.

This prevention program was designed to reduce injury and included specific warm up, cool down, taping of unstable ankles, rehabilitation of injury, and promotion of the spirit of fair play. Additionally, subjects performed 10 sets of exercises designed to improve the stability of the ankle and knee joints, the flexibility and strength of the trunk, hip, and leg muscles, as well as to improve coordination reaction time and endurance. These procedures and exercises resulted in a reduction of injury by 21%.

I believe this is a very valuable study. We need to support programs that are designed to decrease injury risk and to increase overall health. Although the causes for knee ligament injury are unknown at this time, clearly we can support physical training programs that decrease injury and increase active participation in sports. Additionally, I encourage those individuals who are searching for risk factors predicting injury to continue their search so that additional treatment regimens can be developed to make sports participation safer and more enjoyable for athletes, parents, and spectators.

Dr. Slaughterbeck, Associate Professor, Department of Orthopedic Surgery, Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center, Lubbock, TX, is Associate Editor of Sports Medicine Reports.

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