Soccer, A Contact Sport?


Soccer, a contact sport!

In the U.S. 60 million children between the ages of 6 and 18 years old, participate in some form of organized sports, with 44 million participating in multiple sports and more than 15.5 million who play organized youth soccer. Despite an increase in softer turf fields and better equipment, the U.S. injury rates in youth soccer is higher than in many other contact sports, especially injuries of the lower extremity. Several studies have demonstrated that soccer has a higher injury rate than many contact/collision sports such as field hockey, rugby, basketball, and football. Participants younger than 15 years tend to have a higher risk of injury and greater prevalence of injuries compared with older players.

Indoor and outdoor soccer environments have a similar relative risk of injury, however, knee injuries are more prevalent in outdoor soccer. Field surface and shoe characteristics can affect injury risk, especially on outdoor fields. Field conditions, specifically holes, rocks, twigs or other irregularities, can increase lower-extremity injuries. More specifically, uneven playing surfaces can result in improper landing, resulting in knee and ankle injuries. Inappropriate footwear can lead to either too little or too much frictional force, which can increase the risk of knee or ankle injury.

Commonly overuse injuries are seen in younger players, especially during growth spurts, such as muscle sprains, Achilles tendonitis, calcaneal apophysitis (Severe’s disease) and shin splints, attributable in part to play on hard fields with cleats that have insufficient or lacking arch support. Ankle injuries account for 16% to 29% of all soccer related injuries. Contusions and sprains of the lower extremities are the most common injury types; more sprains are seen as an emergency than either contusions, abrasions or fractures, which account for less than 10% of soccer injuries.

Causes of lower extremity youth soccer injuries generally stem from improper training, strengthening, and stretching as well as lack of warm-up and cool-down and inappropriate or lack of proper foot/arch support or foot gear.

Here are some tips to help prevent youth soccer injuries

  1. Pre-season training and conditioning;

Podiatrist tend to see more injuries at the beginning of the season when kids are trying to do too much too soon without proper conditioning. Players should participate in a program of leg, core, and endurance strengthening exercises before the season begins to prepare their bodies for the soccer specific muscle movements they will use during play.

2. Proper stretching

Tight muscles are more prone to soccer injury. Assuring that the hamstrings, quads, hips, lower legs and ankles are stretched properly before games and practices is paramount, while post game / practice stretching is equally important.

  1. Knee injury prevention

Knee injuries, including ACL sprains and ruptures, are among the most common youth soccer injuries, especially for girls. Studies show that specific exercises designed to increase knee strength and range of motion have reduced the occurrence of knee injuries in adolescent and adult female soccer players.

4. Protective gear

Shin guards protect the vulnerable tibia from painful and debilitating contusions. Proper fitting cleats protect the foot and provide much needed traction. Make sure they fit properly to help prevent blisters and incorrect running and kicking form, which could cause foot or ankle injuries. Proper custom orthotics will often provide the appropriate support to reduce the risk of many foot, ankle and lower leg injuries.

  1. Proper heading

Although in soccer, head injury is most often the result of a player colliding with another player or being hit in the head with a ball, proper heading form will prevent some injuries to the head and neck. US Youth Soccer recommends waiting to teach heading until a player is old enough to understand the lesson and has the necessary strength to do it correctly, usually about 10 years of age. Soccer specific protective headgear can absorb some of the shock of head contact and reduce the risk of serious injury.

  1. Field Maintenance

It is estimated that up to 25% of all youth soccer injuries are the due to poor field conditions. Officials are technically responsible for this, but parents, coaches and players should all play a role in checking the field for holes, puddles, rocks, and debris. Also, make sure goalposts are properly secured. While injuries from falling goalposts are rare, they are among the most serious.

  1. Fair play

Soccer is a contact sport, and as such, players are vulnerable to injury from rough or overly aggressive play. Adherence to fair play standards by players and coaches and enforced by referees helps reduce contact related injuries.

  1. Previous injuries

Re-injury is more likely to occur when a player gets back into a game or practice too soon. This is particular dangerous when you’re dealing with a soccer head injury. Sustaining a second concussion after the first is fully healed can lead to brain swelling and more serious complications.






Children’s Feet

                                                                Dr. Vincent Giacalone

Dr. Vincent Giacalone

Podiatric Medicine & Surgery

466 Hook Rd., Suite 24D, Emerson, NJ 07630

Phone: 201-261-0500

Children’s Feet

We worry about your children’s teeth, eyes, and other parts of the body. We teach washing, brushing, and grooming, but what do we do about child’s feet, those still-developing feet which have to carry the entire weight of the body through a lifetime? Many adult foot ailments, like other bodily ills, have their origins in childhood and are present at birth. Periodic professional attention and regular foot care can minimize these problems in later life. Neglecting foot health invites problems in other parts of the body, such as the legs and back. There can also be undesirable personality effects. The youngster with troublesome feet walks awkwardly and usually has poor general posture. As a result, the growing child may become shy, introverted, and avoid athletics and social functions. Consultation between Dr. Giacalone, your child’s pediatrician, and other medical specialists helps to resolve these related problems.

Your Baby’s Feet

The human foot, one of the most complicated parts of the body, has 26 bones, and is laced with ligaments, muscles, blood vessels, and nerves. Because the feet of young children are soft and pliable, abnormal pressure can easily cause deformities. A child’s feet grow rapidly during the first year, reaching almost half their adult foot size. This is why foot specialists consider the first year to be the most important in the development of the feet. Here are some suggestions to help you assure that this development proceeds normally:

Look carefully at your baby’s feet. If you notice something that does not look normal to you, seek professional care immediately. Most deformities will not outgrow by themselves.

Cover baby’s feet loosely. Tight covers restrict movement and can retard normal development.

Provide an opportunity for exercising the feet. Lying uncovered enables the baby to kick and perform other related motions, which prepare the feet for weigh bearing.

Change the baby’s position several times a day. Lying too long in one spot, especially on the stomach, can put excessive strain on the feet and legs.

Starting to Walk

It is unwise to force a child to walk. When physically and emotionally ready, the child will walk. Comparisons with other children are misleading, since the age for independent walking ranges from 10 to 18 months. When the child first begins to walk, shoes are not necessary indoors. Allowing the youngster to go barefoot or to wear just socks helps the foot to grow normally and to develop its musculature and strength, as well as the grasping action of toes. Of course, when walking outside or on rough surfaces, babies’ feet should be protected in lightweight, flexible footwear made of natural materials.

Growing Up

As a child’s feet continue to develop, it may be necessary to change shoe and sock size every few months to allow room for the feet to grow. Although foot problems result mainly from injury, deformity, illness, or hereditary factors, improper footwear can aggravate preexisting conditions. Shoes or other footwear should never be handed down. The feet of young children are often unstable because of muscle problems which make walking difficult or uncomfortable. A thorough examination by Dr. Giacalone may detect an underlying problem or condition which may require immediate treatment or consultation with another specialist.

The American Podiatric Medical Association has long known of the high incidence of foot defects among the young and recommends foot health examinations for school children on a regular basis.

Sports Activities

Millions of American children participate in team and individual sports, many of them outside the school system, where advice on conditioning and equipment is not always available. Parents should be concerned about children’s involvement in sports that require a substantial amount of running and turning, or involve contact. The appropriate foot wear for a particular sports and protective orthotics are often necessary to prevent sprains or fractures. Parents should consider discussing these matters with Dr. Giacalone if they have children participating in active sports. Sports-related foot and ankle injuries are on the rise as more children participate actively in sports.

Children’s Feet Tips

Problems noticed at birth may not disappear by themselves. You should not wait until the child begins walking to take care of a problem you’ve noticed earlier.

Remember that lack of complaint by a youngster is not a reliable sign. The bones of growing feet are so flexible that they can be twisted and distorted without the child being aware of it.

Walking is the best of all foot exercises, according to podiatrists. They also recommend that walking patterns be carefully observed. Does the child toe in or out, have knock knees, or other gait abnormalities? These problems can be corrected if they are detected early.

Going barefoot is a healthy activity for children under the right conditions. However, walking barefoot on dirty pavements exposes children’s feet to the dangers of infection through accidental cuts and to severe contusions, sprains, or fractures. Another potential problem is plantar warts, a condition caused by a virus which invades the sole of the foot through cuts and breaks in the skin. They require protracted treatment and can keep children from school and other activities.

Be careful about applying home remedies to children’s feet.

Preparations strong enough to kill certain types of fungus can harm the skin.

Dr. Giacalone has been trained specifically and extensively in the diagnosis and surgical treatment of foot disorders.  Dr. Giacalone has been board certified by The American Board of Podiatric Orthopedics and The American Board of Podiatric Surgery since 1995 and is a Fellow of the American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons. Dr. Giacalone performs surgery at Hackensack University Medical Center (HUMC) in Hackensack, HUNC @ Pascack Valley in Westwood and Surgicare Surgical Center in Oradell.