March 17, 2004
Conditioning, awareness are keys to preventing soccer injuries
By Lisa Uzzle Gates
Health and Research News Service
FLOWOOD, Miss.—As spring soccer revs up, fitness experts say there’s a way to reduce the season’s usual rash of knee and ankle injuries.
Their advice: Shape up and watch out.
Peter Schott, a physical therapist and therapy manager for Methodist Rehabilitation Center’s outpatient clinic in Flowood, said the best hedge against getting hurt is to follow a regimen of strength training and cardio-conditioning and to stay focused while on the field.
“Soccer is like football in that you need to be aware of what is going on around you at all times,” Schott said. “You can get hit from nowhere, so it’s a sport that really requires you to be attentive.
“We treat a lot of knee and ankle injuries in soccer players. They usually happen when someone slides into someone, going after the ball. Soccer is a contact sport, sometimes people don’t realize that. It’s not necessarily intentional, but you can get hit pretty hard.”
To better withstand the rigors of the sport, Schott advises players to do weight training to strengthen muscles and to wear protective gear.
For general conditioning, running is recommended.
“To really enjoy and be successful at soccer you need to run,” Schott said. “It’s an intense sport in that you are running almost the entire time you are on the field, and there are few substitutions in soccer. Wind sprints and cardio conditioning are very important.”
Jeff Alm, the sports director for the Reservoir YMCA, agrees. The Reservoir Y has about 325 soccer players this season, ranging in age from 4 to 12 years. Alm, who also coaches, said he likes to have his players run, jump and work on their endurance, as well as their ball handling skills.
“They are balls of energy, but they get tired because there is a lot of running. We work on aerobic conditioning—high knees, jumping jacks. And the more running they do, the better it will be for them,” Alm said.
As sports go, soccer is one of the best for all-around fitness, Alm said. “I am biased because I played in college, but it’s a great sport for a lot of reasons. It helps them develop agility and coordination. And it also helps them develop as young people—they learn how to work together toward a common goal. It’s a very well-rounded sport.”