3 Common Injuries that impact Youth Soccer Players
Dec 27, 2021
Youth soccer players are not immune to injuries. If anything, they are MORE prone to certain injuries to their susceptible developing bodies. In addition to their vulnerable bodies, they are inexperienced and certain techniques or playing styles they adopt can pose additional risks to their safety. This post will examine three injuries that are common among youth soccer players and steps to reduce their risk of getting hurt.
Three Common Youth Injuries
Injuries affect youth players fairly frequently and research has demonstrated it. In a 2020 study conducted by Sports Medicine Open, researchers found male youth players to suffer 9.5 to 48.7 injuries/1000 hours, whereas female youth players suffered 12.5 to 30.3 injuries/1000 hours.
Professional male players (adult-age) only suffer 8.7 injuries/1000 hours. This data makes it clear that youth soccer poses a much higher risk of injury than professional soccer. This may come as a surprise. As we mentioned earlier, however, younger players tend to play with “bad habits” that can increase their injury risk.
That makes it essential for them to learn effective playing techniques, engage in proper conditioning and wear youth soccer protective gear.
Concussions are the most concerning injuries for youth soccer players, because of the long-term damage they may inflict on developing brains. Fortunately, they’re not the most common injury in youth soccer, but they’re still up there and a credible threat.
The rate of incidence for concussions among male players is 0.19 per 1000 athletic exposures and 0.27 per 1000 athletic exposures for female players.
Interestingly, and concerningly, females have a higher rate of concussions. It’s been suggested before that females have a higher risk of sustaining a concussion and long-term effects. This makes it important for youth (and girls in particular) to wear soccer protective gear such as concussion headgear.
Knee (and ankle) injuries make up a majority of youth injuries in soccer. Up to 18% of severe soccer injuries that require hospital admissions involve the knee.
One of the most common - and debilitating of these injuries - is anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tears. ACL tears require various amounts of treatment and recovery. They affect females more than males (due to anatomical differences) at a rate of 2.0/10,000 athlete exposures compared to 0.9/10,000 for males.
Ankle injuries are also on par with knee injuries, comprising a high number of injuries in youth soccer. Roughly 20% of all soccer injuries affect the ankles, with ankle sprains constituting 77% of all ankle injuries.
Reasons for Susceptibility
We alluded to a few possibilities as to why youth players are more likely to sustain certain injuries. For one, puberty leads to weight and height increases, both of which can put additional strain on certain joints and tissues, such as the ACL.
If these tissues are poorly conditioned or improperly aligned, then the increase in weight and height only adds more stress to a weak joint. Add overly aggressive play and poor tackling/diving technique in the mix, and you’ve got a perfect storm for leg injuries.
When it comes to concussions, there are some theories as to why younger players are more likely to suffer from them as well.
In younger players, the brain is simply not capable of handling great impacts. For example, the fatty tissues known as myelin sheaths, which help protect brain cells and allow for efficient transmission of nerve signals, aren’t fully developed yet. Concussions damage myelin sheaths and for a younger brain that doesn’t have fully developed connections, the effects of a head impact will be more apparent.
Also, younger players don’t have the neck strength and musculature that adults have, making their skulls less able to absorb high-impact forces.
How to Reduce the Risk of Common Injuries in Youth Soccer
It’s not possible to prevent injuries 100% of the time. However, with the right protocols and steps in place, young players can reduce their injury risks significantly. Reducing injury risk often requires a combination of steps.
Wear Youth Soccer Protective Gear
Soccer protective gear for youth encompasses many items, but some crucial ones for youth include concussion headgear, padded leggings/pants, and leg guards. Concussion headgear such as our Storelli ExoShield may reduce impact forces by as much as 84%, and can offer some additional head protection. Our padded legwear often comes with impact protection materials that can reduce impact forces by 90%, and can therefore protect the legs from injury.
Practice Safe Playing Technique
Younger players are inexperienced by nature, so it’s not uncommon for them to play with less-than-stellar technique at times, which can exacerbate injury risk. The opposite is true, of course - correct technique keeps players safe.
Players should learn proper heading techniques, good tackling skills, diving (for goalkeepers), and so forth. The more refined their skills, the less likely they are to hurt themselves.
Neuromuscular drills are a set of exercises that train the nervous system to move efficiently, thus, reducing the risk of injury among soccer players. FIFA’s 11+ neuromuscular drills are a great example of this, and there is evidence to prove that they can improve body control and joint stability. Coaches should consider incorporating these drills into players’ training regimens.
Youth Soccer Made Safer
Young soccer players face more demands than previous generations. They’re playing longer and more frequently and at higher volumes, leaving them more susceptible to injury than ever.
However, a combination of soccer protective gear for youth such as padded legwear and soccer concussion headgear can help mitigate the risk. Also, regular conditioning and proper technique can help as well. The more effort we make to keep you safe on the pitch, the less likely we are to see young players burning out before their time.
Are you on the hunt for soccer protective gear for youth? Take a look at our selection of youth protective gear to find your needs!