By Shelagh McNally for Knee1
Soccer is one of the fastest growing sports among children of all ages and it has the lowest injury rate of any youth sport. Yet injuries will always be part of any sport with demanding movements and physically competing teams.
|Avoiding Knee Injuries
Get a proper warm-up:Walk and stretch before jumping into strenuous exercise. This will make your muscles more flexible and ready to react, reducing the change of injury.
Train for general agility and strength. Apart from sport-specific skills, proper movements, general agility and strength will decrease the likelihood of an injury.
RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation) is the best thing for most injuries for the first two to three days. This doesn’t replace a doctor’s diagnosis however.
Practice correct technique. Having a good understanding of the fundamentals of your sport will prevent you from falling into the bad habits which can lead to overuse or misuse injuries.
Fortunately for adults and kids alike there are ways of reducing the likelihood of a knee injury.A proper warm-up is crucial for any player, but especially for young female athletes since they have the biggest risk for anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury. The ACL connects the upper leg (femur) with the lower leg (tibia) and is responsible for keeping the knee stable. The female anatomy, which has wider hips, means that women tend to put more strain on their ACL – particularly during sudden decelerations and the twisting and turning so common in soccer. When a knee suddenly buckles while running or turning that’s a telltale sign of ACL damage or strain. Training to strengthen the quadriceps is recommended as well as training to improve agility. Consult a doctor immediately when an ACL injury occurs.
Colliding players competing for the play is a common sight in soccer. Whenever there is a sudden blow to the knee, it’s usually the meniscus that tears. The meniscus is the tough, flexible cartilage that is attached to the knee ligaments, acting like a shock absorber between the femur and tibia. At the moment of contact, the athlete will usually feel something tear in their knee. Typically when the meniscus is damaged, the torn piece begins to move in an abnormal fashion inside the joint causing pain upon movement. It can also result in the two bones rubbing together, which can be quite painful. Agility training and flexibility exercises can minimize this kind of injury. See an orthopedic surgeon immediately for a torn meniscus.
Poor alignment, muscle imbalance or just plain overuse can result in chondromalacia, a softening of the cartilage around the knee which results in the bones rubbing together. It manifests as a dull pain under the kneecap that worsens when running. Pain climbing stairs, or when running on a hill is often an indication of the condition. Stretching muscles in the front and back of the thighs and a warm-up of walking will relieve some of the pressure. A supervised workout with weights is another good way to strengthen the other muscles surrounding the knee and improve alignment. The best cure though is to rest and take anti-inflammatory medication if needed. Consult a doctor for a proper diagnosis and before taking any of the medicine.
Osgood-Schlatter disease is quite common in young athletes and can be aggravated during soccer. It’s simply a pulling away of the knee tendon from the growth area of the knee and is not usually serious as it resolves with rest. With severe cases a conditioning routine may be needed to improve muscle strength. Sometimes wrapping the knee helps. Osgood-Schlatter can last two to three years, but after a youth’s final growth spurt is finished the condition clears up on its own.
The key to preventing most of these knee injuries comes from proper training and warm-ups. A study conducted at the Oslo Sports Trauma Research Center, Norwegian University of Sport and Physical Education, worked out a structured warm-up intervention program designed to reduce the number of knee injuries. A group of 1,827 male and female athletes between the ages of 15 and 17 were given series of warm-up exercises to improve landing, running, cutting, changing direction, control, balance and strength using a ball, wobble board and balance mat. Knee injuries were cut in half by those athletes following the program. So let the children play but after they have warmed-up!
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