Injury Prevention and First Aid Tips
As youth soccer is an action-packed, competitive sport, coaches and parents should have basic first-aid knowledge and the ability to tend to an injured player until medical professionals can take over. The right injury prevention strategies encourage youth soccer safety to help them learn, have fun, and gain confidence.
Northeast Rush Soccer Safety Injury Prevention and Treatment Tips
With numerous clubs across Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York, and Rhode Island, Northeast Rush’s player-centered approach emphasizes the well-being and safety of its players. Parents and coaches of players from ages four to 19 are essential parts of the support system, using strategies that help prevent soccer injuries.
Northeast Rush’s talented, experienced coaching staff can bring out the best in your players, with a commitment to keep their health and safety top of mind. Sign up for Northeast Rush Soccer to begin an adventure based on fun, challenging activities, and fitness.
Youth soccer safety begins with prevention, including inspecting the field before games for glass, debris, holes, loose balls, and other hazards. It’s important to inspect both goals to ensure they are securely anchored to the ground. Goal posts should be generously padded to reduce collision-caused injuries to goalies and other players. Players should never hang from the crossbar or climb on a goal, as it is extremely dangerous, especially because they could fall onto players.
When playing on a wet field, teams should use synthetic balls that don’t absorb moisture. Saturated balls are heavy and can cause injuries. Playing on wet grass requires additional precautions to avoid slipping.
Proper Warm-Up and Stretching
Pregame stretching and warm-ups are key to staying healthy — don’t skip this step! Running in place or doing jumping jacks helps increase blood flow to the muscles. Follow up with dynamic stretching, which uses the muscles to initiate the stretch without holding a static position. It’s important to stretch major muscle groups, such as the adductors (inner thigh) and groin, hamstrings, hips, and quads.
On- and off-season training should include the following:
- Strength training develops muscle tissue to protect joints and bones.
- Cardio training develops respiratory capacity and muscle resilience, which increases stamina while playing. This helps maintain proper playing form.
- Flexibility training helps prevent injury by increasing range of motion, improving balance, lengthening the stride, and supporting ease of movement. This type of training helps young soccer players during their injury recovery process.
Many players train year-round to maintain their strength, stamina, flexibility, and fitness.
FIFA’s Law 4 covers the required equipment that protects the players. During practices and games, all age groups must wear properly fitting shin guards under their socks. U6-U8 players aren’t required to wear molded cleats, although they are recommended. Players may not wear baseball-style cleats with metal spikes or toe cleats.
Except for medical alert bracelets, players may not wear jewelry or anything that could be dangerous to themselves or other players. Players should wait until the end of the season to pierce their ears, as posts must remain in the ears for 30-plus days to heal and cannot be removed for the game.
Eyeglasses should be secured by a sports strap, or the player can wear sports’ goggles. Mouthguards can protect the teeth, tongue, and cheeks.
Avoid the temptation to buy the cheapest gear, as it may not hold up against higher levels of stress. A cracked shin guard or poorly assembled cleats could cause cuts, sprains, and other injuries. Don’t buy gear that is too large for younger players, assuming they will grow into it. They won’t be able to play using the proper techniques, which could lead to injuries, reduced performance, and discouragement.
Hydration and Nutrition
Proper hydration and nutrition are essential to staying healthy and energized, especially during hot weather. Timing game-day meals is important to allow proper metabolization of food and hydration. Players should avoid fried foods, sugar, and anything that is hard to metabolize.
Players should stay hydrated before they become thirsty, swapping sugary drinks for water, coconut water, electrolyte drinks, and organic juices.
Pre-game: About three to four hours before a game, players should eat their largest meal of the day, including lean protein (chicken, fish, eggs), healthy carbs (rice, potatoes, oatmeal, quinoa), and healthy fat (avocado, oils).
About one to two hours before the game, players can top off their energy stores with a healthy snack, possibly including protein bars, Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, smoothies, nuts, trail mix, nut butter on toast/crackers, and fruit.
Gametime: During the game, let players enjoy energy gels and chews. Fruit, coconut water, electrolyte drinks, and protein bars can help maintain players’ energy without burdening their digestive systems.
After the Game: Easily digestible recovery snacks include low-sugar fruits, smoothies, yogurt, and nuts. Water and a low-sugar sports drink are essential during the cooling down period.
Rest and Recovery
Players should stretch and cool down after a game to aid muscle recovery. This helps reduce DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness), which occurs 24 to 48 hours after an intense workout. Foam rolling helps break up lactic acid and reduces muscle tightness.
Players can gently jog for three to five minutes, followed by slow, deep breathing to reoxygenate the blood. Then, five to ten minutes of static stretching helps lengthen the activated muscles. Cool down exercises also support mental recovery following a game or practice.
Common Injuries and First Aid Tips
It’s crucial that first aid is available at every practice and on every playing field. A responsible adult should always be available to quickly and properly administer first aid.
Be prepared for emergency situations. Have a responsible adult on hand along with a plan to contact medical personnel so they can quickly treat concussions, fractures, dislocations, and other serious injuries.
Common soccer injuries include cuts, bruises, strains, sprains, and skin abrasions. More serious conditions include overuse injuries, such as shin splints, runner’s knee (patellofemoral pain syndrome), jumper’s knee (patellar tendinitis), anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injuries, and contact-related injuries that usually occur while practicing.
Serious injuries among older players often occur as a result of illegal plays. Players should wait until 10 to 12 years of age before heading the ball in practice. At that age, they have stronger neck and core muscles and can learn the correct techniques. Heading in games should not take place until U14 play.
Sprains and Strains
Although most strains and sprains that occur in soccer are minor, players should cease activity immediately after suffering an injury. Adults should follow the R.I.C.E. treatment guidelines and for the next 48 hours:
- Rest until the pain lessens.
- Ice the injured part right away, but no more than 20 minutes at a time, four to eight times per day. Be sure to make sure the ice pack or compress doesn’t directly contact the skin.
- Apply compression using elastic bandages that adequately support the injured part for 48 hours and beyond.
- Elevate the injured part above heart level to reduce swelling.
The player can take an age-appropriate dosage of acetaminophen or ibuprofen to lessen pain and inflammation, if necessary.
A fracture always requires a physician’s care. Signs of a broken bone include:
- Hearing a snap or grinding sound
- Bruising, tenderness, or swelling at the injury site
- Affected part hurts when touched, moved, or bearing weight — difficult to move
- Injured part looks crooked or different from how it usually looks
After the injury:
- Don’t move the injured limb from its position.
- Don’t try to straighten the broken limb.
- Don’t move the injured player unless they are in immediate danger.
- Gently remove clothing from the injured party. You may need to cut the clothing off if removing it would cause significant pain.
- Place a simple splint on the injured area to keep the bone in place and protected until a doctor can examine the injury. To improvise a splint, use cardboard, a small board, or folded newspapers. Wrap tape or an elastic bandage around the injury.
- Seek medical care.
- Don’t let the injured child eat or drink anything in case surgery is required.
When to Call 911:
- The person may have a serious injury to the head, back, or neck
- A broken bone punctures the skin
While you wait for help:
- Keep the injured child lying down
- Don’t wash the wound or touch any part that is protruding
Cuts and Abrasions
Despite safety measures that prohibit jewelry and other sharp objects from being worn on the field, soccer players can still end up with cuts. For example, minor abrasions can occur when falling or sliding on the turf.
When players get abrasions, keep them calm and assure them you will help them. Follow these steps:
- Wash your hands thoroughly.
- Don’t blow on the abrasion, as germs from your mouth can infect it.
- Wash the scraped area with soap and water without scrubbing. Remove any dirt and run water over the wound for two to three minutes to prevent infection and scarring.
- Apply an antiseptic cream.
- Cover the abrasion with an adhesive bandage or gauze pad. Change this dressing regularly.
- Keep the area clean and dry; check it daily.
To treat a minor cut:
- Wash your hands thoroughly.
- Rinse the cut with water, allowing you to examine it.
If the cut is bleeding:
- Wear clean rubber or latex gloves if available.
- Apply sterile gauze or a clean cloth over the cut.
- Use your hand to apply pressure for five to 10 minutes without checking the cut. If it’s still bleeding, apply pressure for another five to 10 minutes.
- If the gauze becomes blood-soaked, place another gauze pad on top of it and keep applying pressure. Do not remove it.
- Raise the injured body part above heart level if possible. Don’t use a tourniquet.
- If the bleeding doesn’t stop after 15 to 20 minutes, soaks through the bandage, or is difficult to control, take the child to a medical professional or call 911.
If the cut isn’t bleeding or it stopped bleeding:
- Rinse the cut thoroughly with water to clean it.
- Wash the skin around the cut with a gentle soap and rinse it.
- Cover the cut with a clean bandage.
- Change the bandage daily or when it gets wet.
- After a scab forms over the wound, a bandage is no longer needed.
- Clean and check the cut daily. Call your doctor if the wound is warm, red, tender, swollen, draining pus, or if the child has a fever.
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