The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine

Over 65% Women’s Soccer Injuries Involve The Foot & Ankle

Posted by on Friday, April 17th, 2015

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Concussions have been getting all the media spotlight in recent years. However, as NYC podiatrists, we’d like to point out a startling statistic: over 65% of collegiate women’s soccer injuries involve the foot or the ankle! Why isn’t anyone reporting on that? Data collected by the National Collegiate Athletic Association revealed that from 2004 to 2009, more than 55,000 athletes sustained injuries, contributing to an overall injury rate of 7.3 per 1,000 athletes. With cleats that catch, uneven playing surfaces, and plenty of dynamic twisting, turning, jumping, and kicking, it’s no surprise that foot and ankle injuries topped the list.

Image Source: Datalyscenter.org
Lower limb injuries are most common in soccer, reports the NCAA. Image Source: Datalyscenter.org

Soccer Foot & Ankle Injury Statistics and Trends

First, let’s survey some of these findings and think about how to address them. According to the NCAA women’s soccer report:

  • Games are more intense than practice. Soccer players are nearly three times more likely to sustain injuries in a game than in practice when everyone is striving their hardest. When we work with a sports organization, as the team podiatrists, we attend both practices and games to look for signs of developing injuries, as well as acute injuries. We sometimes note signs of overuse such as less efficient foot positioning, stride shortening, decreased range of motion, and muscle weakness.
  • Preseason holds the greatest risk. Preseason saw 9.1 injuries (per 1,000 athletes), compared to 6.8 during the season and 3.8 injuries in the postseason. Athletes playing seasonal sports often go from relatively sedentary lifestyles to rigorous training five or more days a week. This sudden spike in activity puts a great deal of stress and strain on the muscles, tendons, and ligaments. We urge athletes to listen to their bodies and avoid trying to “push through the pain.” Get a pre-season checkup with a sports medicine doctor and begin a gradual increase in activity in the months before your season begins with a program that includes cardio conditioning, flexibility training, and weight lifting.
  • Ligament sprains are the most common injury. 25.7% of players sprained a ligament; 21.5% of players strained a muscle; 15.9% suffered a deep bruised called a contusion; 9.2% suffered a concussion; 7% strained the thigh muscle; 4.8% strained the hamstring muscle. The ACL in the knee gets a lot of press for being the “most commonly injured ligament,” but many soccer players also sprain the anterior talofibular, calcaneofibular and posterior talofibular ligaments of the ankle as well. We encourage players to participate in dynamic warm-ups that include hopping on one foot and balance training.
  • Women soccer players suffer a lot of ACL injuries. Next to men’s spring football and women’s gymnastics, women’s soccer carried the third-highest ACL injury rate in NCAA sports (0.7%). ACL injuries also require more down-time than any other type of injury, with a median of 159 days lost. We’ve seen great results when soccer players learn new techniques for jumping and changing direction. Working with a sports medicine doctor with an in-depth understanding of body conditioning and injury prevention is the best complement to your organization’s coaching.
  • Players generally bounce back quickly. Over the period surveyed, most injuries (34.2%) caused only three to six days of lost participation and only 12.1% of injuries required 21 or more days off. While this may be a welcome statistic, it’s also a troubling one for medical professionals. Time and again, we treat the same players because they rushed back to competition too soon. Our goal is to get you back into the game as soon as possible and we offer advanced therapies like extracorporeal shockwave therapy and platelet rich plasma injections that do just that. However, we also use diagnostic imaging to evaluate your healing and encourage you to invest the required time into recovery so as to avoid re-injury.
  • The second half of the game is more dangerous because players tire. More than half of all injuries occurred during the latter part of the game. It can be frustrating for coaches to exercise restraint with the team’s top players, especially if the team is trailing the competition. We urge coaches to give players adequate rest. However, we also help players through physical therapy to strengthen their muscles and take strain off ligaments, joints, bones, and tendons so they are able to play longer without incident.
  • No one activity is riskier than another. Most injuries (30.8%) occur during general play, with 16% of injuries resulting from defending, 10.1% from heading, 9.7% from ball handling/dribbling, 8.1% from loose ball scrambles, and 6.6% from goaltending. Collisions with other players were the most commonly cited cause of injury. Bumping into another player may be inevitable for a contact sport, but staying hydrated helps to keep players fresh and level-headed during the game. Well-maintained, properly fitted cleats are essential for preventing missteps on the field.
  • Team drills cause 55.9% of practice-related injuries. Conditioning accounts for 13.1% of injuries and individual drills account for 8% of injuries. Unfortunately, many coaches are knowledgeable about the skills necessary to win matches, but they have a lesser understanding of biomechanics and injury prevention. That’s why a sports medicine doctor is a valuable partner for any player. We’ll examine your technique and offer pointers on how to strengthen your skills without putting yourself at risk.
  • Lateral ankle sprains are especially common. Outer ankle sprains account for 12.8% of all injuries. The outer ankle is most susceptible to injury when a player steps on uneven ground or lands on another player’s foot. Again, we can advise you on the best type of soccer shoe for your foot type, as well as lacing technique and movement patterns that will lessen your chances of injury.
  • Surgery is rarely needed. Only 2.4% of all injuries require the need for surgical intervention. While surgery is rare, The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine has you covered with a team of board-certified podiatric surgeons on staff. Dr. Josef J. Geldwert has decades of experience performing delicate surgeries on athletes who wish to return to full strength and mobility.

According to the NCAA, “Soccer players are uniquely susceptible to muscle strains and ligament sprains due to the quick changes in direction, lateral movements, pivoting and the rapid accelerations and decelerations involved in the sport.” But we disagree with the notion that injuries are purely “the nature of the game” and wholly unavoidable.

Common Sense Tips For NYC Soccer Injury Prevention

Other ways to prevent soccer injuries include:

  • Staying adequately hydrated during the game
  • Wearing well-fitting cleats and shin guards
  • Inspecting the field for wear-and-tear
  • Taking rest time to avoid fatigue
  • Listening to your body and decreasing training if pain or discomfort develops
  • Working with a sports medicine doctor on injury prevention drills and strength-training

Preventing Women’s Soccer Injuries Of The Foot & Ankle

In our experience, seeking a preseason evaluation is critical for a healthy soccer season. At The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Analysis, we have all the essential diagnostic tools: MRIs, x-rays, CT scans, ultrasound machines, gait analysis, pressure sensors, and more.

With our experienced soccer injury professionals, you are in good hands. The founder of our sports medicine center, Dr. Josef J. Geldwert, has served on the medical team for the Women’s Soccer World Cup; he also consulted members of the NY Power and the NY Magic women’s soccer teams.

Our board-certified podiatrists and sports medicine doctors are experts in biomechanics and can identify areas of weakness before injuries occur. We work with amateur and professional athletes who are suffering from chronic pain, acute injury, and who need rehabilitation as well. We’ll guide you through exercises and training to keep your lower limbs in tip-top shape for the upcoming season.

For more information, contact The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine to diagnose, treat and prevent soccer injuries.

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If you have any foot problems or pain, contact The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports MedicineDr. Josef J. GeldwertDr. Katherine Lai, Dr. Ryan Minara and Dr. Mariola Rivera have helped thousands of people get back on their feet. Unfortunately, we cannot give diagnoses or treatment advice online. Please make an appointment to see us if you live in the NY metropolitan area or seek out a podiatrist in your area.