After a month of watching athletes from around the world vying for top spot in the FIFA World Cup, lots of people, adults and children alike, will be looking to lace up a pair of cleats and play.
Wherever you fall on the recreational to pro player scale, soccer is an excellent way to stay healthy. Did you know that during a game, the average player can run up to, or more than, ten kilometers? The mileage amount varies based on position of the player (and the skill level) but even goalkeepers have been known to run almost 5km during a 90 minute match. Even if you’re playing in a recreational soccer league — you can expect to be running a lot.
Increasing your fitness level before the soccer season starts is key in injury prevention and increasing your enjoyment. Making sure your regular fitness routines include a variety of strength, aerobic and flexibility training will help increase your endurance and performance. When the season finally starts, slowly increase your intensity of play in order to prevent injuries. If your season has already started, the same rules apply. Adding complementary strength and flexibility routines will really make a difference in your athletic performance and recovery.
Even if you’ve been a soccer superstar since the day you donned your TimBits jersey, there are still a few things you can do to prevent injuries on the field.
Hydrate. Hydrate. Hydrate. It’s been said before, we’ll say it again. Drink lots of water before, during and after you play.
Before your game or practice, do a dynamic warm up, moving your joints through controlled movements that utilize their full range of motion and increase blood flow to your muscles. Start slowly, with smaller movements and progressively increase the speed and amplitude of these movements. Squats, lunges, gentle high kicks, heel raises, butt kicks, gentle twisting and light jogging are all good ways to prepare your body for the movements over the course of the game. When you’re finished, do some static stretching to help stave off soreness, increase your flexibility, and encourage your tired muscles to relax.
Another way all athletes can prevent injury is to work on their body awareness. Even a basic understanding of how your joints and muscles work and the stresses they experience during sports, like soccer, can help the brain respond more quickly to stabilize muscles and joints and help protect from injury. To increase this awareness there are two types of exercises you can do: balancing and agility. Balancing exercises can be done on one or both legs, and can also be done on an unsteady surface, like a balancing board or a Bosu ball. Agility exercises or stepping patterns with quick feet make a great dynamic warm-up, or can be incorporated into an athlete’s regular practice time.
Proper equipment that fits well and is in good condition can help protect and prevent serious injury; however, with any full contact sport, soccer injuries are more often a question of when they’ll happen, not if they will. Minor cuts and bruises on the body are to be expected. On the more serious side, sprains and tears in the knees and ankles are the most common injury that soccer players sustain. Although it isn’t completely uncommon to see fractures, dislocations or concussions. If in the course of play you sustain an injury, stop playing until you’ve been evaluated by a medical professional.
The last thing to keep in mind is injury by way of overuse. You might think a solid year of soccer sounds like heaven, but to your muscles it’s a quick route to fatigue and injury. Your body needs to rest. Building regular breaks into your training schedule is essential in protecting against overuse injuries. Once soccer season is over, stay active – but try something new.
We hope you have an injury-free and enjoyable soccer season, but don’t forget – we’re here if you need us.