Men’s soccer injuries: Data from the NCAA

Note: This is the second post in a two-part series looking at data on soccer injuries that occurred in the NCAA between the 2004/05 and 2008/09 seasons. In part one, I shared my thoughts on the data regarding injuries in women’s soccer. Here in part two, I discuss injuries in the men’s game.

As with the recent article I wrote about injuries in women’s soccer, I recently reviewed data from an NCAA soccer injury tip sheet. While the athletes involved are only college soccer players, the general points can be applied to soccer players of all ages. I have included a detailed list of some of the pertinent injury data below, but I think a few points are worth discussing.

I have written previously about ACL injuries of the knee. It has been shown in many sports and ages groups that ACL tears are somewhere between 2-8 times more common among female athletes than males. These are still devastating injuries in males, though. While ACL sprains only comprised 0.4% of all injuries in NCAA men’s soccer, they accounted for the greatest number of median days missed – 259 days.

Knee injury in soccer

Contact with other players makes up a large percentage of soccer injuries.

Contact with other playersis especially dangerous in men’s soccer. Contact with other players directly or indirectly made up 42.3% of all injuries. There is no question that contact is normal in a collision sport like soccer. However, I advocate that players should be taught proper tackling techniques and be educated about the effective use of tackling. Using tackles sparingly and doing it with proper technique might decrease injuries to players being tackled, and quite possibly it could decrease injuries among those players doing the tackling.

Surprisingly, the position played seems to have little effect on injuries. In NCAA men’s soccer, like women’s soccer, injuries were distributed evenly across positions when the number of players on the field for each position was calculated. In essence, this finding suggests that no position is inherently riskier than another one.

Lastly, heat stroke is not common among men’s soccer players, but it still ranks among the 20 most common soccer injuries. Fortunately heat illness is mostly preventable. Coaches, athletic trainers, and sports medicine providers should prepare for heat illness before an adverse event occurs. Having all necessary treatments is important, but considerable efforts should be invested into preventing heat illness as well.

Here is a more comprehensive list of injury statistics in NCAA men’s soccer. Again, this data was obtained from the NCAA between the 2004/05 and 2008/09 seasons.

Overall injury rate: 7.7 per 1,000 athlete exposures (games and practices combined)

Injury rates in games: 16.9 injuries per 1,000 athlete exposures
Injury rates in practices: 5.1 injuries per 1,000 athlete exposures
Injury rates in preseason: 8.7 per 1,000 athlete exposures
Injury rates in-season: 7.5 injuries per 1,000 athlete exposures
Injury rates in postseason: 4.6 per 1,000 athlete exposures

Most common injury categories:
Muscle strains (25.8%)
Ligament sprains (25.3%)
Contusions (20.3%)
Concussions (5.5%)

Injury Percentage Breakdown:
Concussions: 5.5%
Head, face and neck: 9.8%
Upper limb: 6.2%
Torso and pelvis: 14.7%
Lower limb: 65.6%

Most common specific injuries:
Partial ligament sprains of the lateral ankle complex (12.2%)
Partial hamstring muscle strains (7.5%)
Concussions (5.5%)
Partial adductor muscle strains (5.5%)

Most common activity at the time of injury:
General play (36.3%)
Defending (11.0%)
Ball handing and dribbling (8.7%)
Goaltending (6.3%)
Heading (6.1%)

Most common activities during practice injuries:
Team drills (67.9%)
Conditioning (8.2%)
Individual drills (5.9%)

Contact with other players accounted for the majority of injuries.
The proportion of injuries that are concussions (5.5 percent) in NCAA men’s soccer players is about half of the proportion seen in NCAA women’s soccer players (9.2 percent).
Surgery resulted from 1.4 percent of all injuries.  Tweet this statistic.

Source: NCAA Sports Injury Fact Sheets. NCAA Sport Injury fact sheets are produced by the Datalys Center for Sports Injury Research and Prevention in collaboration with the National Collegiate Athletic Association, and STOP Sports Injuries. The Datalys Center manages the NCAA Injury Surveillance Program.

What do you think about these numbers? Are they surprising? Do you have any recommendations to decrease them and keep soccer players healthy and on the field? Please share them here!

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