For almost 20 years, soccer has ranked as the most popular sport in Canada for children between the ages of 5 and 14 with 42% of boys and girls that participate in sports, playing soccer.
Over the course of a year, one in every five kids involved with a sport or activity will suffer an injury. Of the most common sports that cause injuries, soccer is in the top 3 for both boys and girls, accounting for 20% of all sports related emergency room visits in Canada.
The most common lower leg and foot injuries associated with playing soccer are:
- Abrasions (scrapes) and contusions (bruises)
- Blisters and calluses due to improper footwear
- Traumatic injury to toenails (eg. being stepped on)
- Plantar Fasciitis: damage to the band of connective tissue through the arch of the feet often due to poor foot mechanics or improper footwear
- Overuse injuries such as achilles tendonitis or shin splints due to repetitive stress without allowing time for the body to heal
- Ankle sprains often from abrupt starting and stopping and moving side to side.
- Athletes foot and plantar warts
Don’t allow kids to “play through” foot and ankle pain. Encourage them to listen to their body and decrease playing time and intensity if pain or discomfort develops.
Warm up, stretch and cool down. Always take time to warm up and stretch, especially your hips, knees, thighs and calves. Start with dynamic exercises like jumping jacks, jump rope or running/walking in place for 3 to 5 minutes to get your muscles loose and warmed up. Then slowly and gently stretch, holding each stretch for 30 seconds. Post game stretching is also just as important to prevent muscles from cramping up and to reduce risk of injury.
Tape Ankles, Knees and other Joints. To avoid ankles turning the wrong way and other joints from being open to injuries, many athletes will tape their ankles or knees before games. This ensures better stability and control without worrying about suffering a painful and possibly game-ending sprain or fracture.
Wear proper footwear and equipment. Use well-fitting cleats designed for the surface you will be playing on. Molded cleats are believed to be safer than screw-in cleats unless playing on poor, wet field conditions. Shin guards should be lightweight and cover the area from your ankle to your knee, preferably with padded ankle protection.
Prevent warts, athletes foot and other fungus by always wearing waterproof shoes in public showers and change rooms - common breading grounds for bacteria.