Soccer is the third most played team sport in the US (13 million Americans), behind basketball and baseball. Soccer players get great exercise and training and play increase agility, better coordination, and build team skills. As the sport’s popularity soars, so do the injuries. With a little planning, however, serious soccer players can use massage to help them reduce injuries and increase their flexibility and range of motion on the field.
Most injuries in soccer are limited to the lower extremes. Sprains and strains are common, as are injuries from a knee twist, or a not-too-well placed kick from another play. Overuse injuries also occur.
Because of the start-run-stop nature of soccer, knee injuries and shin-splints are very common. Less common injuries, like cartilage tears and injuries to the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) happen and may require surgery.
Stress fractures happen, mostly from overuse, as do thigh and calf muscle strains, groin pulls, and various cuts and bruises.
Upper body injuries are centered on arms, head, neck and face. Wrist fractures and sprains, shoulder dislocations and trauma injuries from player-to-player contact (like neck sprains, head trauma, and concussion) are not uncommon. Listen to your body and never play with an injury unless your doctor give you the thumbs-up.
Massage and soccer-related injuries
In most cases, a player who experiences ANY injury should stop playing until the issue can be evaluated by a qualified trainer, coach or medical personnel. In the case of overuse injuries, a short period of rest is indicated. In many cases athletes who try to “tough it out” actually do more harm to bones, tissues and other structures.
In a huge number of cases, soft tissue injuries, especially those to neck, legs and arms, can be managed through massage by a qualified therapist. The therapist will help sore muscles feel better, while aligning muscle tissues and increasing the blood flow in the muscle, which helps muscles heal faster and decreases pain.
Proper fitness is the best way to prevent injuries. Training regimens which include stretching, foam rolling and regular sports massage, where the therapist keeps your joints limber and helps increase range of motion, can also help.
From a play perspective, properly fitting equipment can make a huge difference. Cleats and shin guards that fit comfortably and snugly are safer, and using properly sized synthetic balls are important. Leather soccer balls gain weight and become more rigid which can wreak havoc on your neck and shoulders if you head the ball. Pay attention to field conditions,too and watch out for overheating. Hydration, especially with a drink that contains electrolytes, helps that.
It is very common for professional soccer players to get bodywork after a match or heavy training. Most amateur and pro teams have a massage therapist in the locker room, or on call. Therapists flush extremities to reduce toxins and work on range of motion, especially on the knees and hips. Weekend warriors are realizing these benefits and are jumping on the bandwagon as well. The amateur and pro both enjoy faster recovery after a match and increased flexibility. Massage can also reduce the stress of hard training, game pressure and performance anxiety.
If you’re a soccer player interested in reducing injuries, increasing performance, and decreasing aches and pains-try massage.