The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine

Tough Turf: The Five Most Common Injuries Suffered by Soccer Players

Posted by on Monday, August 19th, 2013


The US Consumer Product Safety Commission reports that nearly 570,000 athletes were injured playing soccer in 2009, the last year for which data is available. Lately, head injuries have captured the spotlight. One study found that 60% of college soccer players had suffered a concussion at some point during their careers. More commonly, though, we see the following soccer injuries at our NYC Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine.

1. Sprains

The pivoting and lateral movements of soccer open up players to sprain injuries, which include the ankle and knee. Often, direct hits, uneven field surfaces, or improper footwear can cause a sprain as well. A “sprain” refers to a ligament that has been overstretched or actually torn. Sprain symptoms include: stiffness, decreased range of motion, pain, swelling, and a painful pop. Torn ligaments do not always bruise, but they can take up to 12 weeks to heal. The best you can do is follow the R.I.C.E. method with rest, ice, compression and elevation.

2. Strains

Muscle strains occur when you’ve pulled a muscle too far in one direction, the muscle has been contracted hard against resistance, or the muscle has contracted hard when the body was not prepared to absorb the shock. The groin, hamstrings and quadriceps are most likely to become strained during a soccer game. The pain is sudden and severe. You won’t need to go to the emergency room, but a strain could keep you sidelined for two to three weeks on a grade 1 strain (less than 5% fibers affected), three to six weeks for a grade 2 strain (torn fibers just short of rupture), or three months for a grade 3 strain when the muscle has completely ruptured. Recovery involves the R.I.C.E. method, but also improving flexibility and one’s stretching regimen.


3. Fractures

Most fractures occur in the lower limbs — the tibula, the fibula, the femur, or the metatarsal foot bones. Fractures may occur as the result of the direct physical contact that inevitably happens during game play. For this reason, proper protective gear is essential. Yet, other times, fractures may result from overuse or repetitive motions. Symptoms include: swelling, bruising, deformity, pain that worsens when weight is applied or location is moved, and loss of function. On average, it takes players 15 to 26 weeks to get back to full playing ability following a fracture, but the good news is that they almost always return.

4. Tears

Injury to the Anterior Cruciate Ligament (a.k.a. an ACL injury) is one of the most common tears we see at our NYC sports medicine center. It’s also common to tear the meniscus in the knee or ligaments in the ankle. Tears often occur when athletes land flat-footed or awkwardly. Symptoms include inflammation (but rarely bruising), as well as pain, tenderness, and difficulty walking. Recovery can take four to eight weeks for ankle ligaments or minor tears. However, many tears can be quite serious and require surgery.

5. Overuse

Shin splints (calf pain), patellar tendinitis (knee pain), and Achilles tendinitis (back of the ankle pain) are several of the most common soccer overuse injuries. Overuse injuries account for about 30% of all injuries in soccer. Inflammation and aching are the most common symptoms, with pain worsening during intense game play. Early treatment with rest, ice, compression and elevation is important in preventing a worsening of your condition. Overuse injury recovery time can last several weeks to several months. We recommend getting a scan to rule out fractures and other types of injury.

If you live in the NYC area, please contact our Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine to help you get back into the game as quickly as possible.  Soccer injuries happen to be one of our specialties!


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.