Professional soccer schedules are very long. The English Premier League, arguably the most popular league in the world, runs from September to May. Preseason starts in July. Normally the players get 6 to 8 weeks off each year. This year the World Cup knocks out most of that break. Can these schedules lead to overuse injuries in soccer, and what does it mean for our kids?
The effect of the World Cup on players’ bodies
Without the summer to rest and get ready for the upcoming professional season, it’s likely we will see many players suffer overuse muscle and tendon injuries. Maybe teams will try to limit them by allowing their players who competed in the World Cup to skip preseason. Or maybe they will rotate their squads more than normal early in the campaign.
Tips to prevent overuse injuries in youth soccer
What does this information mean for kids? We know that around half of injuries kids suffer are related to overuse, regardless of sport. Therefore, we must focus our efforts on ways to cut down on the wear and tear to their bodies at the youth level.
Take at least one season off each year.
Kids should not play soccer year round, especially before they are finished growing. Instead, they should take one season off to let their feet, ankles, legs and knees rest. If they want to play another sport that season, try to have them play one that stresses other parts of the body. Playing multiple sports might not only help them avoid injury, but also improve their soccer performance by learning skills and movements in those other sports.
Decrease the potential for kids overtraining.
Try to make practices fun and not competition and winning. Don’t push kids to practice and play so much that they get hurt or burnout. Give them days off.
Don’t push young basketball players to play through pain.
We can prevent a large percentage of youth soccer injuries by discouraging the kids from playing through pain. If they have sore knees or ankles, let them take a day or two off and see if it gets better. If they still hurt, have them see a doctor to find out what the problem is and start treatment before it becomes a more serious problem.