Once upon a time, soccer was the game only in Europe and South America, a tradition as strong as baseball in America. But it's only recently that soccer as a professional team sport has gained respect here as well.
But as a team sport for children, soccer has been just as popular here as abroad for years. Pass any suburban school yard, today or 20 years ago, and there are children, kicking a ball and trying to score a goal first.
There's a reason for soccer's popularity in the school yard. Of all the team sports, soccer is believed to be the least hazardous to a person's health. But, as with anything to do with kicking or moving fast, there are a few dangers attached. And, as the number of children playing the sport increases, so does the number of serious injuries.
The Soccer Injury Countdown
Most schools have extensive guidelines on soccer safety rules. Parents should receive a printed guide, listing the equipment they'll need for their children (such as shin guards, soccer shoes, and helmets) and safety measures that must be taken. Coaches should be on the field at all times, watching for potential problems with a diligent eye.
First aid kits for soccer should include adhesive bandages, sterile gauze pads, rubbing alcohol, instant ice packs, Tylenol, and first aid cream.
- Ankle injury. The very nature of soccer's method of kicking, with an awkward instep motion, makes players vulnerable to sprains and breaks to ankle bones.
- Cuts and bruises. Soccer is very animated at times, with lots of kicking. This can result in a fall or two—which, in turn, results in those ubiquitous knees and arms that get cut on rocks or the hard dirt of the playing field. Children can also get spiked by another player's shoe.
- Black eyes. A ball can sometimes fall short of its goal—and hit an unsuspecting player.
- Back problems. During intense periods of running up and down the playing field, a player can fall—and, like dominoes, six other guys can fall on top of him. The heavier the group, the heavier the pressure on the first player who fell. Tackling is allowed in soccer, but as in ice hockey and football, technique must be taught and rehearsed over and over again to avoid injury to all players.
Treatment and Cures
Years ago, children used to play soccer in sneakers and shorts—which could lead to some of the injuries discussed here. Today official rules and regulations make the game even safer. All players must wear shin guards and special soccer shoes. Helmets are required in some states. Hopefully, they will become law throughout the country to avoid possible head injury.
Flexibility and leg-strengthening exercises are just as important in soccer as they are in any sport. And don't forget to warm up and stretch (even if you're just chasing your little brother around the field).