Physiotherapy's 'World Cup' of Injuries: Soccer that is

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Posted Jul 13th, 2018

Physiotherapy's 'World Cup' of Injuries: Soccer that is

Since soccer is one of the most popular sports around the world, with approximately ¼ of a billion people who play, let alone how many have been watching the World Cup and this weekend's Final between Croatia and France, no better time to discuss soccer injuries. The World Cup series no doubt saw it's fair share of injuries, including the famous ankle sprain, ligament tears, and strains.  Unfortunately some of these can impede performance; tissue/bone growth in youth; as such it is important to properly care for them.

Let’s walk through some information, do’s, and don’ts of common injuries experienced in soccer and other relevant activities.

Ankle Sprain

  • Also known as “rolling your ankle”, this injures the ligaments, typically on the outside of the ankle. It can be mild through severe; however, even a mild sprain can keep an athlete off the field anywhere between a few days to 4-6 weeks.
  • Surgery is often not a suggested solution. Rather RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation) early on, and some physiotherapy can accelerate healing and early return to play.
Jones Fracture
  • Fracture referring to the fifth metatarsal. This is the bone along the outside part of the foot, under the little toe.
  • Athletes whom face this injury are usually offered surgery by orthopedic surgeons. The procedure occurs by inserting a screw inside the bone through the fracture.
  • Non-operative treatments involve a cast or a boot which are x-rayed continuously and closely monitored.

Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) Tear

  • This ligament is responsible for front-to back joint control in the knee and ensures rotational stability.
  • This injury is common in young adults; rising incident rates in skeletally immature athletes.
  • When this ligament tears it is most likely due to a player’s forceful foot plant to change directions, or a forced extended (straightened) knee, the way they landed a jump. A pop sound may come from the knee, followed by swelling, and difficulty bearing weight.
  • Surgery is a popular treatment, depending on the severity of the injury and laxity. They will reconstruct the torn ACL in order to restore stability, for daily function and return to sport. However, physiotherapy is an essential part of the recovery to restore strength, mobility, stability, balance, and flexibility, which may take 6-12 months, depending on the injury and level of sport to return to.

Meniscus Tear

  • Meniscus is the cartilage between the two knee bones, whose purpose is to absorb the shock of landing, and pivot movements.  Youth encounter traumatic tears with rapid movements, whereas adults’ experience repetitive use strains to the tissue.
  • When the tear happens as a child, generally it can heal on its own, due to better blood supply of the meniscus compared to an adult.  However it also depends on the location of the meniscal tear, as there are areas that have better blood supply (thus healing potential), then others.
  • Many tears often need surgery, particularly a younger population. Physiotherapy applies to the surgical repair and conservative care of a meniscal tear, to focus on items key to function, weight bearing, and other elements of performance and sports.
    Adductor (inner thigh) strain
  • In soccer’s need for quick reflexes and quick changes of direction, the adductor muscles get the short end of the stick since it can injure these muscles or tendons, in an over stretch or tear.
  • Rest, and physical therapy can help decrease pain and in improving recovery to get back on the field.

Hamstring (rear thigh) Strain

  • Often caused by sprinting, rapid deceleration, and/or poor muscle warm up.  Severity and recovery depend on amount of tissue affected, typically classified as Grade I-III (mild to more severe). 
  • With a high rate of recurrence it is important to care for it attentively because it can reoccur within the first few weeks so do take 2-6 weeks rest.
  • Physiotherapy may involve early inflammation and tissue healing care; do and don't tips; working toward exercises to load the new tissue toward sport-specific movements and prevention strategies.

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