That's gotta hurt! Soccer injuries unfortunately are as much of playing soccer as scoring goals are. As sad as injuries may be at times it's important to focus on taking care of your body. Great players not only perform on the pitch but are available often by doing everything they can by avoiding soccer injuries whenever they can.
The best players in the world that have long careers in any sport have mastered the art of rest, recovery and injury prevention. You can't be great on the field if you're injured and off of it so getting used to preventing some of the most common injuries in the game is a must. The most common injuries you will see are knee, sprained ankle, hamstring and concussions. The mental recovery they say can be longer than the physical and detrimental to players feeling like their old selves on the pitch again so it's important to understand the time it takes to get back to your original form. Believe it or not there is a silver lining to getting injured and that includes being grateful for what you have when you get back, understanding what's it like to be a player who doesn't get to play a lot and finding out in which ways you help the team in ways that don't include playing.
Learn all the different ways to make sure you can prevent and recover injuries with proper routines before and after all training session and matches. The truly discipline and professional level players go through preventive routines so they are not reacting to injuries as they come but are ready to take any of them head on.
1. Proper Warm Up - We've all put our boots on ran on the field and hit a ball as hard as we can right away annnnnd there goes the hamstring. It's all good when you're young but even then it's a bad habit to not properly warm up the car before stepping on the gas. Leg swings, slow jog, some lunges is the least you can do to prepare the body.
2. Not Overworking Yourself - This is common today with young players who want to train 3 times a day and play 4 games a week. Over work causes stress to the body and before it has a chance to recover you are red lining it again. Listen to your body and take at least one day off a week for proper recovery and injury prevention purposes.
3. Proper Rest - When it's time to rest do exactly that. Shut it down on your days off and take full advantage of it by relaxing and getting your 8 hours of sleep in. Day off from team training doesn't mean you need to go put in a 3 hour workout.
4. Proper Recovery Routine - Whether it's yoga, icing, stretching or anything else make sure you have a post training and game routine that includes some preventing stretches and a healthy shake or meal as soon as you can.
5. Avoiding Danger Areas - While training and playing consider the risk and reward of every tackle you go into. So many players get involved in unnecessary tackles that lead to injury. Feel the danger of a tackle before it happens and approach it wisely or you may be out a week or two thinking about what could have been.
1. Ankle Sprain - Whether it's stepping on an uneven piece of grass/turf or from a tackle we've all had an ankle sprain or two that has kept us off the pitch. Wearing a protective ankle brace or getting your ankles taped if you're susceptible to these types of injuries is a good long term move.
2. Hamstring Strain - One too many sprints down the pitch or that shot from distance leading to a strain of the hamstring is common to every soccer team. Be sure if on a strength plan to include hamstring strengthening as it is an injury you see every pre-season to those less physically prepared. This injury can be neglected in the strengthening plan and workouts so be sure to put the necessary reps in because an injury here can lead to several weeks if not months off the pitch.
3. Knee Injury (ACL/MCL/Meniscus) - It hurts just typing those words but knee injuries are synonymous with soccer and long term injuries. ACL, MCL, PCL you name it we've all had or played with someone who has suffered a knee injury or two. Stability exercises along with lower body strength exercises can go a long way in keeping those knees healthy all season.
4. Hip Flexor - An excessive amount of sprints, shots and just overwork in general can lead to a sore or strained hip flexor. Adding some core exercises into a post training/match routine will help with this injury. If injured a few days of rest will usually do the trick here.
5. Concussion - The injury that is most front and center these days is the concussion. Whether a clash of heads, head hitting the deck or excessive heading of the ball all can lead to a serious concussion. Nothing to think about here but sitting out and taking the proper concussion protocols. Preventing this is to avoid heading the ball at all so sitting out is the only thing you can really do if hit with a concussion.
For more in depth information on common soccer injuries and how to prevent them feel free to read this article: Preventing Soccer Injuries.
1. REST! - Duh? But when we say rest we mean 100% no activity and nothing else that may add to further time off. Take it seriously and shut all types of physical activity down or you'll just be looking at a longer period on the sidelines. The first step to recovery is the mental dedication and discipline to sitting out.
2. Yoga - Ryan Giggs said it added 5 years to his professional career. Get in the habit of doing just 15 minutes of yoga a few times a week and you will start to feel more limber and more importantly less susceptible to injury.
3. Athletic Therapy - Nothing fancy here but your standard athletic therapist can work wonders with ultra sound, massage, stretching and other forms of therapy to help promote recovery to your particular injury. Sometimes it's just nice to get some attention to the area too.
4. Increase Sleep - Our most unused super power to recovery is sleep. Not just any sleep but the highest quality sleep getting us into our REM cycles. To recover quicker try these tips around sleep, sleep more than 8 hours, get to bed before midnight, sleep in a pitch black room, keep your cell phone away from you and wake up naturally with no alarm. You do these things you can speed up your recovery like you wouldn't imagine.
5. Work On Strengthening Surrounding Muscles and Joints - The time will come when you need to start getting back on the pitch and you don't want the rest of your body and certainly not the muscles and joints are the specific injury to let you down and lead to another injury. No matter why you're sitting out be sure to work on core exercises to get your body prepared for the comeback of the year.
1. No Warm up
2. No Pre-hab Routine
3. Not Physically Prepared
4. Overwork the Body
5. Reckless Tackles
Now there’s a question that needs some deeper thought, as always you should get advice from the therapist or trainer that looks after your teams injuries.
If you’re scared they are going to tell you that you’ve got to sit out consider these before talking to them:
-What part of the season are you in?
-What percent of your normal self are you playing at?
-Is it an injury that keeps getting worse by the day or has the pain plateaued?
-Am I hurting my team by playing more than somebody else who could be playing that’s 100%?
These are the questions you need to ask yourself when deciding to play through pain, above all else you need to see your therapist, and they will help you get to where you both want to be, playing on the field. Soccer injuries are no fun, but they are there to help.
Ever heard this expression? Well not only is it an expression it’s also a fact. Soccer Injuries (especially long term ones) have a mental strain on a player and their ability to perform at a high level again.
When you come back from injury after being sidelines for so long there is a fear of re-injury. Every tackle you go into, every shot you take and every sprint you perform in the back of your mind all you can think of was the moment you previously got hurt.
I’ve been there and I know it’s difficult, and as we all know when you go half strength into a tackle or go in half heartedly to any duel that those are the moments when you are at a higher risk for hurting yourself.
So some advice from a professional, don’t rush back from any injury, wait until you are more then back to full strength. Come with the mentality to play at full capacity and fearless, it may not happen right away but that’s the mental approach you need to take into every competition when getting back into it.
“Ummm how about none!” Well you’re wrong there are some such as:
Okay I’m Hurt, Is there Point of Me Coming to Practice?
Yes, and this is why:
It’s Important to be Around
-No player or coach is bigger than the team. The team will move on whether you want it to or not and by not showing up to events (practices, games, trips, meetings) you are forcing the team to move on without you.
Staying in the loop (although difficult while injured) is important for camaraderie and team cohesion. Just because you can’t walk doesn’t mean you aren’t an important and valued member of the team you limping pirate. Don't let your soccer injuries seclude you from the team.
Chemistry of a team goes beyond the lines of the field. Actually majority of the cohesion of a team is done away from soccer. The inside jokes on trips, the rides to practice and social gatherings go a long way in building a team as one cohesive unit.
Showing Other How to be a Good Teammate
Coming to everything whether on crutches or not is leading by example and showing the younger athletes on the team how to act. Injured or not you are showing that you’re a part of the team and players respect that.
Sometimes getting injured is the best thing to happen to some players. They realize how much they missed it and how they were taking the opportunity for granted and come back with a new sense of drive and motivation to perform and work at a much higher level.
Taking Care of Your Body
This can serve as a life lesson of how to take care of your body and being proactive in terms of strengthening and maintaining overall health. When you get older you’ll be thanking your young self for the time you put in to care for your body.
Whether at the pro level or prior, taking care of your body is not only important for the longevity of your soccer career but also the overall physical health for the rest of your life. Take care of your soccer injuries now, you’ll thank me later.