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Preventing women’s injuries

Women’s World Cup Soccer
Team Physician Gives Prevention Tips

It doesn’t matter whether you are a member of the U.S. Women’s World Cup soccer team or the local community league, one wrong twist or turn can injure even the best soccer player.
“Right now prevention is a big buzzword in the soccer community,”said Mark A. Adams, MD, team physician for the U.S. Women’s World Cup soccer team, and practicing orthopedic surgeon in Columbia, Mo. “We spend a lot of time educating players before they get on the playing field about how they can prevent injuries from occurring in the first place.” In 1998, there were 512,946 injuries related to soccer treated in hospital emergency rooms, doctors’ offices, clinics, ambulatory surgery centers and hospitals, says the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.

Adams said the most prevalent injuries on the soccer field include ankle and knee sprains, groin strains, contusions and head injuries.
Here are some tips from the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons on how to protect yourself from certain injuries on the soccer field:
– Ankle injuries. Perform side lunges to develop lower leg strength. Stand with legs apart; bend the left knee while leaning toward the left. Keep the back straight and the right leg straight. Hold for five seconds. Repeat three to six times. Repeat on opposite leg.
– Knee sprains. To protect yourself, perform exercises that strengthen your legs, especially the quadriceps and hamstrings. Standing quad stretches will help strengthen your quadriceps. Stand supported. Pull foot back to buttocks. Hold for five seconds. Repeat three to six times with each leg.
– Groin strains. Doing butterfly stretches prior to the game helps. Sit on the ground. Bring heels together into the groin area and hold the toes of both feet. Lower your knees until they are as far down as possible. Hold this position for 20 to 30 seconds. Repeat three times.
– Hamstring stretches. Try straight leg raises to help prevent potential injury. Lie on your stomach. Extend your leg, then tighten the hamstring muscle. Raise your leg behind you as far as possible. Hold for five seconds. Repeat three to six times. Repeat on opposite leg.
– Anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injuries are becoming a major concern among soccer players, especially females. Studies indicate that female athletes participating in certain sports like soccer or basketball are three to four times more likely to injure their ACL than males.

Orthopedic researchers, at a recent consensus meeting on sports injuries in females, concluded that females have a higher risk of ACL injuries than males because they rely on different thigh muscles when landing from a jump, making sudden stops or changing direction. Males use their hamstring muscles at the rear of the thighs during those activities; the hamstrings tend to relieve stress on the knee when it bends. However, women use their quadriceps (the muscles in front of their thighs), making the ACL vulnerable to tears. The meeting was sponsored by the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine, Orthopaedic Research and Education Foundation and National Collegiate Athletic Association, Sports Science Division.

“We have adopted certain training programs that focus on strengthening the hamstring muscles to help the female players,” Adams said.“This type of injury should not stop players from participating in the sport. If they are careful and train properly then they should have a long, healthy career.” An orthopedic surgeon has extensive training in the diagnosis and nonsurgical – as well as surgical – treatment of the musculoskeletal system, including bones, joints, ligaments, tendons, muscles and nerves. The 23,800-member American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons is a not-for-profit organization that provides education programs for orthopedic surgeons, allied health professionals and the public, and is an advocate for improved patient care.