Soccer is one of the most popular sports in the world, with more than 250 million players in over 200 countries. The game of soccer involves stamina, balance, agility, coordination and teamwork, so it’s no surprise that soccer players are at high risk for injury.
Jozy Altidore, U.S. forward, injured his left hamstring in Monday’s 2014 FIFA World Cup game against Ghana. After just 20 minutes of play time, Altidore had to be replaced on the field due to the pain of his injury. Sprains, strains or tears that present in the lower extremity are the most common type of injury reported by soccer athletes.
A hamstring strain is not considered a serious injury, but activity should be stopped immediately in order to let the muscle(s) rest. The hamstring is made up of three muscles on the back thigh that help give you the ability to bend your leg at the knee. A hamstring strain is presented when one or more of these muscles have been over stretched. However, if the muscle stretches too far, a partial or full hamstring tear may occur. This would cause recovery to increase to several weeks or months without training or participating in sports.
In addition to straining the hamstring, injuries like shin splints (pain of the shinbone), patellar tendinitis (jumper’s knee) and Achilles tendinitis are also lower extremity injuries commonly seen in soccer players.
Decreasing your risk of sprains, strains and tears are possible with these preventive steps:
Warm Up – Make sure to stretch and warm muscles before each practice and game.
Know Your Limits – Make sure to fully recover from a previous injury before returning to the game. If you return too early, you’re at higher risk for injury.
Rest and Recovery:
Recovery may take days, weeks or months, depending on how severe the strain, sprain or tear is. For example, a completely torn hamstring (grade 3 injury) may take several months to heal and return to normal physical activity.
Use the RICE method for optimal recovery:
Rest – Avoid physical activity. Keep your leg as still as possible.
Ice – Apply ice therapy for about 20 minutes, two to three times a day.
Compression – Use a compression sleeves to help reduce pain and swelling.
Elevation – Further reduce swelling by slightly elevating your leg while sitting.
Over-the-counter painkillers, like ibuprofen or acetaminophen are safe to use to help relieve the pain. If your pain and discomfort continues longer than a few days, consult your physician immediately. You may have a grade 2 or grade 3 injury that requires more advanced treatment.
National Center for Biotechnology Information: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1725275/pdf/v039p00473.pdf
American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons: