Make Your World Cup Injury-Free

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Photo credit: Katie Brady

ROSEMONT, Ill.–The 2010 FIFA World Cup™ brings the biggest fans and the best soccer players together for an incredible month-long competition. And while these top athletes are competing in South Africa, people around the globe are playing soccer in leagues, schools, or just for fun.

The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) recommends that when playing soccer, athletes should keep their safety in mind, no matter the competition level. Soccer is a physically demanding sport that requires a great deal of strength and stamina to be successful, but that doesn’t always leave players free and clear of an injury.

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Some of the top players destined for the 2010 FIFA World Cup™ have suffered orthopaedic injuries prior to the tournament and are either working to compete or will be sitting on the sidelines during their recoveries:

  • Germany’s veteran midfielder, Michael Ballack suffered ligament damage to his right ankle and is unable to compete for the cup.
  • Ivory Coast captain, Didier Drogba fractured his arm in an exhibition match and earned minimal minutes in their first game against Portugal.
  • Two Spanish stars were injured – midfielder, Cesc Fàbregas is recovering from a broken leg and star forward, Fernando Torres had knee surgery in April. Torres played for part of their first match against Switzerland.
  • Portugal midfielder, Nani, cannot participate due to a bruised collarbone.

“It just goes to show that even the fittest athletes are at risk for injury, so it’s important to always play with proper technique, stretch adequately and be aware of field conditions,” said orthopaedic surgeon and US Soccer Team Physician, Daniel G. Kalbac, MD.  “Soccer has captured the world’s attention for quite some time and has become increasingly popular in the United States, and with the World Cup at our feet, it’s a good time to reiterate the importance of conditioning, and training for soccer athletes of all ages.”

According to the US Consumer Product Safety Commission, nearly 570,000 athletes were injured playing soccer in 2009. The Academy and the STOP Sports Injuries Campaign  offer the following tips to keep soccer players healthy this season:

  • After a period of inactivity, progress gradually back to full-contact soccer through activities such as aerobic conditioning, strength training, and agility training – injury rates are higher in athletes who have not adequately prepared physically.
  • Always take time to warm up and stretch especially your hips, knees, thighs and calves. Research studies have shown that cold muscles are more prone to injury. Warm up with stationary cycling, running or walking in place.
  • Hydrate adequately. Be sure not to wait until you are thirsty; it is imperative to properly hydrate at all times while training.
  • Wear shin guards to help protect your lower legs. Soccer tournament records have shown that most players who sustained lower leg injuries were not protected by adequate shin guards.
  • Wear proper shoes. Shoes with screw-in cleats are often associated with a higher risk of injury.  However, screw-in cleats should be worn when traction is needed, such as on a wet field or with high grass.
  • To help avoid heat illness, pay attention to environmental recommendations, especially in relation to excessively hot and humid weather.
  • Be prepared for emergency situations and have a plan to reach medical personnel to treat injuries such as concussions, dislocations, elbow contusions, wrist or finger sprains, and fractures.

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