Most soccer injuries occur in the lower body, like ankles and knees

Overuse injuries in soccer

Overuse injuries in soccer

Soccer, one of the most popular team sports in the world with over 200 million registered players worldwide, is a game of non-stop action.

Most injuries occur in the lower body, mostly to the knees and ankles.

However, repeated or prolonged use (overuse) injuries are common problems, especially toward the end of a long gruelling season.

These injuries are the result of constant overloading and wearing down of a tendon (tissue connecting muscle to bone), muscle, bone or joint , resulting in the inability of that structure to perform its normal biomechanical duties.

Types of injuries

The rate of injury in soccer has been reported to be between 15 and 20 injuries per 1 000 hours of play.

The rate is highly higher for female players than male participants.

Injuries range from a severe bruise to more traumatic type injuries (broken bones). Overuse injuries are responsible for almost 30 percent of the injuries and range from mild tendonitis (swelling of a tendon) all the way to a stress fracture.

Common sites of injuries


Inflammation (swelling) is the most common sign of an overuse injury. The inflammation is redness, warmth and swelling, pain with movement, painful to touch, and a grinding feeling over the muscle as it is moved.

One or all of these signs may be present. In the early stages, players might feel an aching pain after practice. As the injury gets worse, the pain will occur during practice or games with increasing pain as an attempt is made to maintain a high level of performance.

Youth and adolescent players are at most risk for overuse injuries during times of rapid growth.

Strong muscle pull at the tendon-bone junction and at the attachment to the growth plate can cause inflammation.

One common adolescent overuse injury is apophysitis.

It is a painful bump where the patella (knee cap) tendon attaches to the tibia, or shin bone. This can be inflamed by repetitive running or jumping. A tight hamstring seems to go hand in hand with this injury. An injury like this should not be ignored because it could lead to a complete separation of the tendon from the bone.

Sever's disease is another common area of pain in the young soccer player (age seven and older). It is a growth plate inflammation of the heel bone which may mimic Achilles tendonitis.

Other areas of growth plate inflammation can occur at the pelvic rim of the thigh muscle attachment to the hip, the hamstring, and the groin muscles attachment to the pelvis.

The worst case in the spectrum of overuse injuries is the stress fracture.

This results from an inability of the bone to keep up with the increasing demand placed upon it. The result is fracture (breaking) of the bone.

Adult soccer players also suffer from overuse injuries and common places for injuries in adults are the Achilles tendon, plantar fascia (tissue that runs from heel bone to the toes) inside of the lower leg shin (shin splints) and at the knee.

Improper footwear and playing on hard surfaces can lead to these injuries. If left untreated these injuries can lead to tendon rupture.


Treatment is P.R.I.C.E

P - Prevention is the most important part of the equation;

R - Rest involves giving the injured tissue adequate time to repair itself;

I - Ice is used to decrease inflammation;

C - Compression involves applying a compression bandage over the injured part to help reduce swelling; and

E - Elevation helps to decrease swelling by using gravity to assist in the process


Proper conditioning, appropriate training techniques, quality footwear, proper warm-up and stretching, and paying attention to the body's early warning signs can prevent overuse injuries.

Early treatment with rest can shorten time away from playing.