Equipment is there for a reason – to prevent injury. Players who do not wear protective equipment, or wear it incorrectly, are much more likely to get hurt. U.S. Soccer’s Recognize to Recover program provides resources and guidance to help players fight off injury so they can stay on the field.
All players should wear the following equipment and follow these tips for proper fit:
- Shoes should fit properly and are laced tight each time.
- Appropriate shoes (and soles) should be worn for the field surface being played on.
- Shin guards should end just below the knee and fit snuggly around the ankle bone.
- Socks should completely cover the shin guards.
- Soccer balls should be properly inflated, water-resistant and the correct size for the age group.
While some equipment is optional, players can consider the following to prevent against injury:
- Goalkeepers should wear padded gloves with finger-protectors.
- Goalkeepers should wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants, possibly with elbow and knee padding.
- Mouth guard is an option to protect teeth, lips and tongue.
- Jewelry should not be worn – except for a medical alert bracelet.
Did you know?
- Ankle sprains are the most common soccer injury for players in high school and younger. Strengthening the ankle by using a balance board can help prevent ankle sprains.
- Learning proper technique when jumping and landing can prevent many non-contact injuries to knees and ankles.
- A 15-20 minute regeneration session after practice or a game speeds up the body’s recovery.
- Strains — or pulled muscles — are common in soccer and can be avoided with a proper warm up and by stretching before and after practice or a game
- Hot spots on the feet are a precursor to blisters. Treat the hot spot as soon as it develops to prevent a blister from forming
Warm-up is critical.
Players should spend at least 20 minutes stretching and warming up at the beginning of practice or before a game. Guided warm-ups prepare the body for more strenuous activities and may include a variety of exercises meant to stimulate the body and simulate game-play skills.
Training and strengthening
Training and strengthening will enhance the body’s natural protection systems, especially for ankles and knees. Muscles around the joints can be strengthened through consistent practice of specific training exercises, like walking lunges, single toe raises and single leg hops. The affected muscles stabilize the joint and reduce the risk of injury. The upper body can be strengthened to help protect players during challenges and shielding without sacrificing speed or agility.
Injury treatment and recovery
Injury treatment and recovery are important for returning players to the field safely and preventing future injuries. Reducing swelling and pain as quickly as possible after an injury allows for faster recovery and evaluation by a doctor. After an injury, the muscle or joint will not be as strong as before the injury. A player returning to play without allowing the injury to completely heal and recover strength is at risk for a repetitive injury which is often more serious.
Remember RICE when treating a sprain or strain:
- REST – keep off the injured ankle
- ICE – apply ice to the area for twenty minutes every hour; place a towel between the skin and ice, to prevent burns
- COMPRESSION – use a wrap to stabilize the injury; start at the toes and wrap up the leg past the ankle
- ELEVATION – raise the leg to help with swelling and pain; when elevating an injured ankle, remember "toes above the nose"