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Louise Chang, MD
Jan. 25, 2010 -- Injuries in youth soccer are common, and rates are higher
among players younger than age 15, a new analysis shows.
Reporting in the February issue of Pediatrics, researchers say that
soccer -- one of the most popular team sports in the world -- is almost
synonymous with injuries. Young female players tend to suffer more knee-related
injuries, while male soccer players are more likely to report more ankle
injuries, the researchers write.
The researchers say that prevention programs could reduce the number of knee
injuries through specialized exercise programs and should be promoted by
coaches and officials of soccer leagues.
Female players, the researchers report, have a slightly higher risk of
concussion than male players. The risk of head injury is about the same in
soccer as it is in other contact-collision sports, but the researchers say the
evidence doesn't support "heading" -- using the head to propel or stop the ball
-- as a risk for short- or long-term cognitive problems.
The researchers say enforcing the rules of the game and discouraging overtly
aggressive or dangerous play could help, because many soccer players get hurt
when either the play becomes unsafe or because of conditions that go with the
It's estimated that 15.5 million people in the U.S. participate in soccer.
Two national youth organizations have registered 650,000 and 3.2 million
participants under the age of 19. The number of female adolescent players
increased 7% between 2001 and 2007.
The researchers say more than 700,000 girls and boys played soccer in high
schools in the U.S. in 2008-2009, placing soccer among the top sports for
With increased participation comes an increasing prevalence of youths
injured while playing soccer showing up in pediatric offices, the study
According to the researchers, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC)
estimated there were 186,544 soccer-related injuries in 2006, about 80%
affecting young people under 24. Forty-four percent of the injuries, the
researchers write, occurred in players younger than 15.
The researchers say they studied records from the CPSC's National Electronic
Injury Surveillance System.
They report that:
The researchers say a common serious injury that doctors see is a rupture of
the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) -- a tear in one of the knee ligaments
that joins the upper and lower leg bones.
Previous research has indicated that female collegiate soccer players have a
2.8 times greater risk of ACL rupture than male players do, the researchers
write, but some evidence suggests the increased risk is closer to four to six
times for females.
Soccer can be good for health, the researchers say, but children,
adolescents, and young adults should be encouraged to participate often in
other forms of physical activity in addition to soccer.
SOURCES:News release, American Academy of Pediatrics.Koutures, C. Pediatrics, February 2010; vol 125.
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