In the mid 1980s, soccer passed baseball at the most popular team sport in the US. There are local soccer teams, school soccer teams, AYSO soccer teams, and many other leagues. Soccer is a relatively safe sport that children of all ages can master. Children as young as 3 years old are playing soccer and as they get older, some children play on multiple teams in any given season. Soccer is seen as a safe sport for children of all ages because it is a limited-contact sport. Despite its limited-contact nature, playing soccer does put your children at risk for injury. With the increasing number of children playing soccer, chiropractors everywhere are recommending that parents consider the potential injuries that their children can experience when playing.
What is the risk?
There are three basic movements in soccer; kicking and dribbling the ball with the feet, trapping (which is akin to catching the ball without using your hands), and heading the ball (which is the deliberate use of the head to redirect the ball). Heading is the act that causes the most frequent injuries. The injury does not result directly from the ball contacting the head, but rather from the increased risk of collision when two players attempt to head a ball. Without proper instruction, heading can lead to injuries because of improper technique. The chiropractic community recommends that children not be taught to head the ball until at least age 10. This recommendation is based on the maturation and development of the spine.
Are helmets a solution?
Some school districts and athletic associations now require that very young soccer players wear helmets. While the helmet does protect the head, it does not protect the spinal injuries from heading. There is also concern that the helmets provide a false sense of security.
Prevention is the best approach.
The best way to manage any sports activity is to prevent the injury in the first place. There is no special equipment to purchase or additional education or training necessary. Parents and coaches already have what they need right at their fingertips.
- If children must use the heading technique, teach them the correct way to do it.
- Use smaller balls for younger players
- Pad goal posts and require mouth guards and helmets for the youngest players
- Ensure that your child has plenty of rest and does not over do it – one game per week is enough
- Choose a broad spectrum of sports to develop the entire body.
Chiropractic Care Can Help...
Doctors of chiropractic are trained and licensed to treat the entire neuromusculoskeletal system. Chiropractors are specially trained in sports medicine and injury prevention. They can provide advice to coaches and parents on training, nutrition, and injury prevention. Has your child been injured while playing soccer or any other sport? A visit to the chiropractor can get your child healed and back on the field.
Elihu Rosen, DC