About midway through the season now, fall sports like soccer are beginning to pick up steam as the weather cools down but the competition heats up. A hallmark of the fall season, soccer is the fastest growing team sport in the U.S. and serves as a great form of aerobic exercise that helps athletes develop balance, agility, endurance and speed. But just like every other sport, soccer also carries with it a risk of injury.
At the top of this list, muscle strains are among the most common injuries seen in soccer at all levels of play. They are defined as a twist, pull and/or tear of a muscle, and are caused by stretching a muscle beyond its normal range or contracting a muscle too hard when it’s not ready to do so. Players often sustain strains from taking a longer stride than the muscle can handle or from cutting movements and quick stop-and-starts, all of which are a big part of regular soccer play.
Muscle strains are most common in the groin muscles, hamstrings, quadriceps, back and calves, and can be either chronic (lasting three months or longer) or acute (short-term). A player can identify a muscle strain if they experience any of the following symptoms: pain, muscle spasm, muscle weakness, inflammation, swelling or cramping.
Taking a few basic precautionary measures can prevent most muscle strains, and when they do occur, Cleveland Physical Therapy Associates can guide athletes’ recovery so they can get back on the field in no time. We recommend the following important tips for coaches and athletes to prevent muscle strains this season:
- Be sure to warm up adequately and stretch out any tight muscles, especially previously injured ones, before every practice and game
- Engage in a prevention program that focuses on flexibility and strengthening, since keeping muscles strong will help them absorb the energy of sudden stressful activities
- Wear well-fitted cleats with appropriate spikes (longer spikes in softer turf and shorter spikes on dry, hard turf)
- Take breaks as needed and stop if you’re too tired to continue on, as tired muscles don’t respond well to stress and can more easily strain
- If you do experience a strain, always remember the RICE method: Rest for a week or two; Ice the area for 10 minutes, several times a day; use an elastic Compression bandage; Elevate the affected area above the heart
- For pain that doesn’t subside or for additional care, our physical therapists can provide specific strengthening and stretching exercises and offer guidance on proper movement techniques to use while playing soccer to reduce the risk of future muscle strain once return to play is deemed safe
Most athletes can make a complete recovery from a muscle strain so long as treatment is followed appropriately, but prevention is the best strategy, and Cleveland Physical Therapy Associates can help with this process. Call 704-471-0001 for more information or to schedule an appointment at either or our two locations in Shelby or Kings Mountain, NC.