Soccer (Care of the Young Athlete)

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Soccer (known as football outside the United
States) is one of the most popular team sports in the world. Soccer also can be
a way to encourage children to be physically active while they learn about
teamwork and sportsmanship.

With the growing popularity of soccer comes a
greater number of injuries. However, the risk of injury can be reduced. This
publication was written by the American Academy of Pediatrics to provide
information about how to prevent soccer injuries. It includes a list of common
soccer injuries.

Safety tips

The following are ways to help prevent soccer

  • Equipment. Players should
    use the right equipment.

    • Protective mouth guards

    • Protective eyewear.
      Glasses or goggles should be made with polycarbonate or a
      similar material. The material should conform to the standards
      of the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM).

    • Shoes. Cleats
      should provide sufficient heel/arch support and grip.

    • Balls. Soccer balls
      should be water-resistant, the right size based on age, and
      properly inflated.

  • Preseason training. There
    is growing evidence that preseason conditioning and balance training may
    reduce the risk of anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury.

  • Fair play. Violent behavior
    and aggressive play increase the risk of injury and should be strongly
    discouraged. Parents and coaches should encourage good sportsmanship and
    fair play.

  • Field conditions. Uneven
    playing surfaces can increase risk of injury, especially in outdoor
    soccer. The field should be checked for holes or irregularities. Goal
    posts should be secured to the ground at all times even when not in use.
    Follow installation guidelines from the manufacturers and Consumer
    Product Safety Commission.

  • Heading technique. The risk
    of a head injury is comparable to other contact/collision sports, though
    evidence does not support repeated heading as a risk for short- or
    long-term cognitive issues. However, to reduce the risk of injury from
    heading the soccer ball, players should be taught proper heading
    technique at the appropriate age and with an appropriate-sized ball.

    Excessive heading drills should be
    discouraged until more is known about the effects on the brain. Also, no
    recommendations regarding the use of helmets or cushioned pads to reduce
    head injury in soccer can be made at this time. More research and
    established safety standards and regulations are needed.

Common injuries

Soccer injuries in general occur when players
collide with each other or when players collide with the ground, ball, or
goalpost. They also may result from nonbody contact, such as from running,
twisting/turning, shooting, and landing. The most common types of injuries in
youth soccer are sprains and strains, followed by contusions (bruises). Most
injuries are minor, requiring basic first aid or a maximum of 1 week’s
rest from playing soccer.

Ankle and knee injuries

Most ankle and knee injuries do not result
from contact with another player. Ankle injuries are more common in male
players and knee injuries are more common in female players.

ACL injuries are relatively common knee
injuries. Most of these injuries happen not from coming in contact with
another player, but from sudden stops and pivots. ACL injury risk-reduction
programs are recommended for female adolescents.

Heel pain

Irritation of the growth plate of the heel
bone (Sever’s disease) is common in youth soccer. This can be treated
with calf stretching, activity modification (avoid extra running), heel cups
or arch supports, ice, and anti-inflammatory medicine.

Head injuries

Concussions are common in soccer. They
usually occur when a player’s head collides with another
player’s head, shoulder, or arm, or the ground. Females tend to have
a slightly higher concussion risk than males.

Concussions temporarily affect brain
function, although loss of consciousness or blackout may or may not happen.
All concussions are serious and need to be evaluated by a doctor before
players can return to play. The signs and symptoms of a concussion range
from mild to severe and usually happen right after the injury, but may take
hours to days to show up. With most concussions, the player is not knocked
out or unconscious.

Mouth, face, and teeth injuries

Soccer is one of the leading causes of
mouth, facial, and dental injuries in sports (second only to basketball).
Use of protective mouth guards may help reduce the number of injuries.

Eye injuries

Eye injuries are rare, but when they occur
they are often severe, resulting in damage to the eye globe or blowout
fractures of the eye socket. Protective eyewear is recommended for all
soccer players.


Soccer injuries can be prevented when fair play
is encouraged and the rules of the game are enforced. Also make sure you have
the right equipment and play safely.