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Safety Tips: Soccer

Soccer is the most popular sport in the world for good reason. It's easy to learn at a young age and a great source of exercise. Plus, it's an exciting, fast-paced game that's lots of fun to play.

But soccer is a contact sport, and injuries are bound to happen. Collisions with other players can cause bruises and even concussions. All the running involved in a soccer game can lead to muscle pulls and sprains, and overuse injuries.

To learn how to keep things as safe as possible while playing soccer, follow these safety tips.

Why Is Soccer Safety Important?

With so many people playing soccer these days, it's only natural that some will end up getting hurt. Fortunately, most soccer injuries are minor, but serious injuries such as broken bones and concussions do happen.

Ankle sprains are the most common soccer injury; other frequent injuries include hamstring or calf strains, groin injuries, shin splints, knee injuries (including ACL tears), and concussions. In addition, players can get overuse injuries such as tendonitis and growth plate injuries or stress fractures from playing too much or playing through pain.

Gear Guidelines

Soccer doesn't require a lot of gear for each player other than shin guards and cleats, but it's a good idea to give some thought to all of these important pieces of equipment before you play:

Before You Take the Field

Coming into the soccer season in good shape will not only help you be a better player, it will also go a long way toward preventing injuries. Start working out and eating right a few months before the season is set to begin. Better yet, get regular exercise and eat a healthy diet year-round, and then you won't need to worry about being in shape for the season.

Here are some other things to bear in mind before you start play:

During Game Play

Know and obey the rules of soccer. Unsafe play is a major cause of injuries and will lead to you getting carded and maybe kicked out of the game. In fact, some leagues will suspend you for additional games if you are a repeat offender.

Keep your head up and be aware of your teammates and opposing players at all times. Collisions are more likely if you go charging blindly down the field and don't pay attention to other players.

Learn and use proper techniques, particularly when it comes to heading the ball. Heading the ball can injure your head and neck if you don't do it properly. If you don't know where other players are, you run the risk of head-to-head collisions if two of you jump to head a ball. And protect your tongue — keep your mouth closed and your tongue away from your teeth while heading a ball.

If you are injured or feel pain while playing, ask to come out of the game, and don't start playing again until the pain goes away. Playing through pain might seem like a brave thing to do, but it can increase the severity of an injury and possibly keep you on the sidelines for longer stretches of time.

A Few Other Reminders

Keep soccer fun. That's why you started playing in the first place, isn't it? Follow some basic safety precautions and stay aware of what's going on around you, and you should be able to avoid most injuries. And that'll keep you out on the field where you want to be.

Reviewed by: Mary L. Gavin, MD
Date reviewed: March 2014

Note: All information on TeensHealth® is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.

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