Soccer is the most popular youth sport in America, but like any contact sport, there’s always a risk of injury. For soccer moms and dads who wonder what they can do to protect their child, new research in Pediatrics, the journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, points to a number of preventatives that may help.
According to the research, sprains, strains, fractures, ACL tears in the knee, and concussions are among the most common injuries in youth soccer. To prevent many of these injuries, especially ACL tears, which happen to occur more frequently in girls than boys, researchers say neuromuscular training programs can help teach proper landing and kicking techniques.
Concussions tend to occur as a result of contact with an opposing player rather than the ball. To reduce the risk, researchers underscore the importance of fair play and rule following as well as demonstrating age-appropriate heading techniques that may reduce the risk of concussion. If you don’t know what the proper techniques are, ask your child’s coach to demonstrate, then practice at home with your child. It’s also key to remind children to report any symptoms of pain or discomfort immediately in order to ensure proper diagnosis and treatment.
Wearing the proper protective gear is also key — just make sure you use the correct size. From shin guards and mouth guards to protective eyewear, wearing gear that fits comfortably can help to minimize risk of injury.
If your child is a recurring soccer player, the researchers suggest filling out a pre-participation evaluation (PPE) with your coaches at the start of each season. These are designed to identify any new risk factors, so you can discuss ways to prevent injury.
Of course, there’s no substitute for staying hydrated and getting enough rest. And if the weather turns unusually hot or cold, have your child dress in layers so they can stay safe and comfortable.
While you can never eliminate the risk of injury altogether, following these steps as recommended by the AAP has been proven to help minimize it, so you can worry less and focus more on cheering from the sidelines.