By: Jeff Mjaanes, MD, FAAP
Quick passes, dribbling, headers, and punts make soccer a fun, healthy way for children of all ages to stay active and learn important life skills. And if your child is one of the roughly
4 million kids in the US who already play on a soccer team each year, you know all too well how the sport has evolved; soccer has changed to a year-round sport with many young soccer players playing on multiple teams simultaneously.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the most common injuries in youth soccer players?
Anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injuries are also a big concern, especially in teenage girls. This is likely due to many reasons including hormones, body anatomy, and how the nerves and muscles work together.
ACL Injuries in Young Athletes.
How worried should parents be about concussions in soccer?
- Concussions are a relatively common injury in soccer, and the rates of concussion among youth soccer players seem to be
increasing―especially in girls.
Heading the ball is the most dangerous act in soccer with respect to concussion, but most head injuries occur from contact with another player during the act of heading, rather than from contact with the ball itself.
If you are wondering how to tell a harmless bump on the head from something more serious, check out this HealthyChildren.org parent webinar,
Concussions 101: What Parents Need to Know , discussing the signs and symptoms of a concussion, who should examine your child and when, and when he or she can return to school and sports activities.
Sports-Related Concussion: Understanding the Risks, Signs, Symptoms.
When should kids start heading the ball?
- Many organizations are now advocating that players wait to start heading the ball until 10-12 years of age, when kids have developed stronger core and neck muscles and learned proper technique―including tensing neck muscles.
At this time, there is not enough medical evidence to show that wearing headgear or mouthguards will prevent concussion in soccer players. Using headgear may also give players a false sense of security, which could increase the likelihood of risk-taking behavior and a concussion.
How does the rate of serious injuries in high school soccer compare to the rates in other sports?
- For serious
season-ending injuries in high school athletes, the injury rate for male soccer players is lower than football, ice hockey, and lacrosse and higher than seven other commonly played sports. For girls, only gymnastics has a higher rate of season-ending injuries.
What if my child only wants to play soccer and no other sports?
- In general, encouraging exposure to many different sports is very important.
Talk with your child about his or her or reasons for wanting to specialize. Is it to make a high school team? Is it for success in college? Only one in four outstanding elementary school athletes becomes a sports standout in high school. About 3-11% of high school athletes compete at a college level, and only 1% receive an athletic scholarship. Early sports specialization also carries the risk of higher injury rates, increased psychological stress, and an increased likelihood of quitting the sport at an early age.
How many days or hours a week should kids practice soccer?
- To avoid sports-related injuries, the AAP
recommends kids train no more hours per week than their age. The AAP also advises to rest 1 to 2 days per week and take at least 3 months off during the year in 1-month increments from their sport.
Encourage new accomplishments, celebrate little successes, be excited about the ones to come, and do not expect a skill way before its time.
About Dr. Mjaanes:
Jeff Mjaanes, MD, FAAP, serves as the Director of Intercollegiate and Health Service Sports Medicine and Head Team Physician for Northwestern University. Prior to being at Northwestern, he worked as a sports medicine specialist at Rush University in Chicago where he acted as Medical Director for the Chicago Sports Concussion Clinic at Rush and served as team physician for DePaul University and the Chicago Fire MLS team. He has served as team physician for US Soccer and USA Rugby and sits on the Board of Directors for the National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment (NOCSAE). Within the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), Dr. Mjaanes is a member of the Council on Sports Medicine and Fitness (COSMF).