Soccer

01 Overview

Soccer is one of the world’s most popular sports. Governed locally by BC Soccer, this fast-paced team sport occurs on a field with a ball and a goal at each end. Soccer has been a longstanding sport in the Summer Olympics for men, with women’s soccer added in 1996. Knee and ankle overuse injuries, sprains, and strains are common, and player collisions can cause a wide range of injuries, including cuts, bruises, and concussions.

(see Section 04 - Prevention)
Athlete silhouette
View Common Injuries by clicking the blue dots on the silhouette

Ankle sprains are very common among soccer players.

While not common, head injuries can occur during soccer and can include sustaining a concussion.

Hamstring strains are one of the most common injuries among soccer players.

Groin injuries are common in soccer, especially among adults.

Knee injuries, including those to the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), are the most common injury among female players and the third most common among male players.

02 Injury Statistics

In professional soccer, men’s teams are anticipated to have up to two players sustain a significant injury per season. More female soccer players report concussions than male players.

Curious about the research on injuries?

It is estimated that...

View Summary of Incidence Rates

03 Risk Factors

Sustaining an injury in soccer can be influenced by: poor balance, poor strength in the lower legs, improper landing technique, having a higher body mass index (BMI), and history of lower limb injury. The influence of these characteristics may vary depending on whether you are female or male.

  • Poor Leg Strength

    Males with poor leg strength have a nine times higher risk of sustaining an ankle injury in soccer. A good neuromuscular training program can help decrease your risk of injury.

  • Higher Body Mass Index (BMI)

    BMI is a measure of body composition based on your weight and height. Having a higher BMI increases your risk of hamstring strains by about 50%, particularly among female soccer players. A good exercise program can help improve your fitness level and reduce your risk of hamstring strains.

  • Family History of Anterior Cruciate Ligament Injury

    A family history of ACL injury significantly increases injury risk among females.

  • Workload

    Playing soccer at a high duration and intensity without adequate periods of rest and recovery increase your risk of common injuries such as hamstring strains, knee and ankle sprains. The risk of common and chronic injuries, including anterior knee pain, is higher when weekly practice or training workload increases by over 25%.
    Soccer players may also be injured when their practice and/or training workload in sport is too low.

  • Instability

    Ankle instability, leading to balance problems, increases your risk of injury. Injuries can occur during cutting movements that require a sudden change in direction. Regular participation in a structured exercise program involving balance and strength training can help you improve stability around your joints.

  • Previous Injuries

    Suffering a previous injury to any part of your body can increase your risk of sustaining another injury, such as a concussion or lower limb injury.

  • Age

    The risk of injury increases with age; males are more likely to sustain hamstring and groin muscle strains, and females are more likely to have knee injuries. Females over 14 years of age are twice as likely to sustain a knee injury compared to younger soccer players.

View Summary of Risk Factors

04 How can I prevent injury?

Some muscle soreness or joint pain is expected when increasing your level of physical activity. However, it is important to listen to your body for persistent or worsening pain, and to know when to rest. Learn more about how to prevent injuries in soccer.

  • Participant & Parent

    Talk to your coach or organization about the prevention strategies below and how they might be incorporated into training and policies.

    Training Load

    It is important that soccer players are not exposed to any sudden changes in intensity and duration of training or game play. A smart practice or training program involving a gradual buildup of workload and volume can reduce your risk of injury by up to 38%.

    Strength Training and Neuromuscular Training Program

    11+ Warm-Up Program
    Regular participation in the 11+ warm-up exercise program can reduce your risk of soccer injury by up to 70%. This program, which consists of 15 running, balance, strength, and jump training exercises, has the ability to decrease your chances of sustaining common injuries to the hamstrings, ankles, knees, and groin. Complete the warm-up program at least twice a week.

    Learn more about the 11+ warm-up program.

    Oslo Sport Trauma Research Centre Neuromuscular Training
    The Oslo Sport Trauma Research Centre has developed strength training exercises designed to prevent injuries to the groin, knee, ankle, and other areas of the body. This resource includes videos and PDFs for download.

    Learn more about exercises to help prevent groin injuries.

    Learn more about exercises to help prevent knee injuries.

    Learn more about exercises to help prevent ankle injuries.

    For more exercises, visit http://fittoplay.org/.

    Get Set Neuromuscular Training
    The Get Set app contains exercises that can be done at home. Created by the Oslo Sports Trauma Center, Norwegian School of Sport Sciences, and Making Waves AS in 2014 for the International Olympic Committee, the app allows you to search by body part to view exercises that work to strengthen each area of the body, or search by sport to view a library of exercises that are specific to soccer.

    Download Get Set for Android.

    Download Get Set for iOS.

    Equipment

    Shin guards can reduce your risk of injury in soccer. In order to determine the correct size of the shin guard for optimal protection, measure from just below the knee to 1 inch above the top of the shoe, then subtract 1 inch. Ideally, the top of the guard should be around 2 to 3 inches below the knees and about 1 inch above where the ankle bends.

    Managing Concussion

    While concussions are not the most common injury in soccer, it is important to be aware of concussion signs and symptoms and know what to do if concussion is suspected. The Concussion Awareness Training Tool (CATT) is an online resource for players and parents to learn more about how to recognize, prevent, and manage a concussion. CATT also includes resources on how to respond to a potential concussion situation, as well as detailed Return to School and Return to Sport protocols.

    Other Considerations (about this section)

    Sport-related Physicals
    Soccer is a physically demanding sport and some pre-existing conditions may increase the risk of injury. A sport-related physical evaluation at the beginning of each season ensuring fitness to play can help to reduce risk of injury. KidsHealth provides information about what sports physicals are, why they may be appropriate and where you may go to get them.

    Learn more about Kids Health Sports Physicals.

  • Coach & Teacher

    Talk to your organization or school about the prevention strategies below and how they might be incorporated into training and policies.

    Training Load

    It is important that soccer players are not exposed to any sudden changes in intensity and duration of training or game play. A smart practice or training program involving a gradual buildup of workload and volume can reduce your players’ risk of injury by up to 38%.

    Strength Training and Neuromuscular Training Program

    11+ Warm-Up Program
    Regular participation in the 11+ warm-up exercise program can reduce your risk of soccer injury by up to 70%. This program, which consists of 15 running, balance, strength, and jump training exercises, has the ability to decrease your chances of sustaining common injuries to the hamstrings, ankles, knees, and groin. Complete the warm-up program at least twice a week.

    Learn more about the 11+ warm-up program.

    Oslo Sport Trauma Research Centre Neuromuscular Training
    The Oslo Sport Trauma Research Centre has developed strength training exercises designed to prevent injuries to the groin, knee, ankle, and other areas of the body. This resource includes videos and PDFs for download.

    Learn more about exercises to help prevent groin injuries.

    Learn more about exercises to help prevent knee injuries.

    Learn more about exercises to help prevent ankle injuries.

    For more exercises, visit http://fittoplay.org/.

    Get Set Neuromuscular Training
    The Get Set app contains exercises that can be done at home. Created by the Oslo Sports Trauma Center, Norwegian School of Sport Sciences, and Making Waves AS in 2014 for the International Olympic Committee, the app allows you to search by body part to view exercises that work to strengthen each area of the body, or search by sport to view a library of exercises that are specific to soccer.

    Download Get Set for Android.

    Download Get Set for iOS.

    Equipment

    Shin guards can reduce your risk of injury in soccer. In order to determine the correct size of the shin guard for optimal protection, measure from just below the knee to 1 inch above the top of the shoe, then subtract 1 inch. Ideally, the top of the guard should be around 2 to 3 inches below the knees and about 1 inch above where the ankle bends.

    Managing Concussion

    While concussions are not the most common injury in soccer, it is important to be aware of concussion signs and symptoms and know what to do if concussion is suspected. The Concussion Awareness Training Tool (CATT) is an online resource for coaches and teachers to learn more about how to recognize, prevent, and manage a concussion. CATT also includes resources on how to respond to a potential concussion situation, as well as detailed Return to School and Return to Sport protocol.

    Other Considerations (about this section)

    Facilities
    The Ontario Physical Education Association (OPHEA) provides recommendations for safely implementing indoor and outdoor soccer in elementary schools.

    Learn more about implementing soccer in elementary schools.

    Sport-related Physicals
    Soccer is a physically demanding sport and some pre-existing conditions may increase the risk of injury. A sport-related physical evaluation at the beginning of each season ensuring fitness to play can help to reduce risk of injury. KidsHealth provides information about what sports physicals are, why they may be appropriate and where you may go to get them.

    Learn more about Kids Health Sports Physicals.

  • Official & Administrator

    Talk to your coaches, teachers, organization, or school about the prevention strategies below and how they might be incorporated into training and policies.

    Rule Enforcement

    Enforcing the rules of the game has the potential to reduce the risk of injury in soccer players by over 25%. For example, a player’s risk of sustaining a concussion is decreased if the rule of red cards for high elbow raising is strictly enforced.

    Equipment

    Mandating and enforcing the use of adequately fitted shin guards can help reduce the risk of bruises and other lower leg injuries. In order to determine the correct size of the shin guard for optimal protection, measure from just below the knee to 1 inch above the top of the shoe, then subtract 1 inch. Ideally, the top of the guard should be around 2 to 3 inches below the knees and about 1 inch above where the ankle bends.

    Strength Training and Neuromuscular Training Program

    11+ Warm-Up Program
    Regular participation in the 11+ warm-up exercise program can reduce your risk of soccer injury by up to 70%. This program, which consists of 15 running, balance, strength, and jump training exercises, has the ability to decrease your chances of sustaining common injuries to the hamstrings, ankles, knees, and groin. Complete the warm-up program at least twice a week.

    Coaches who both understand the risk of lower limb injuries, and the effectiveness of injury prevention measures in reducing this risk, are more likely to incorporate an evidence-based warm-up such as the 11+ into their regular practice.

    Facilitating a regular pre-season coaches’ workshop can improve understanding and confidence in using the 11+ program. Supporting coaches in identifying and overcoming specific barriers (such as time constraints) will increase the likelihood of widespread adoption.

    Learn more about the 11+ warm-up program.

    Oslo Sport Trauma Research Centre Neuromuscular Training
    The Oslo Sport Trauma Research Centre has developed strength training exercises designed to prevent injuries to the groin, knee, ankle, and other areas of the body. This resource includes videos and PDFs for download.

    Learn more about exercises to help prevent groin injuries.

    Learn more about exercises to help prevent knee injuries.

    Learn more about exercises to help prevent ankle injuries.

    For more exercises, visit http://fittoplay.org/.

    Get Set Neuromuscular Training
    The Get Set app contains exercises that can be done at home. Created by the Oslo Sports Trauma Center, Norwegian School of Sport Sciences, and Making Waves AS in 2014 for the International Olympic Committee, the app allows you to search by body part to view exercises that work to strengthen each area of the body, or search by sport to view a library of exercises that are specific to soccer.

    Download Get Set for Android.

    Download Get Set for iOS.

    Managing Concussion

    While concussions are not the most common injury in soccer, it is important to be aware of concussion signs and symptoms and know what to do if concussion is suspected. The Concussion Awareness Training Tool (CATT) is an online resource to learn more about how to recognize, prevent, and manage a concussion. CATT also includes resources on how to respond to a potential concussion situation, as well as detailed Return to School and Return to Sport protocol.

    Other Considerations (about this section)

    Facilities
    The Ontario Physical Education Association (OPHEA) provides recommendations for safely implementing indoor and outdoor soccer in elementary schools.

    Learn more about implementing soccer in elementary schools.

    Sport-related Physicals
    Soccer is a physically demanding sport and some pre-existing conditions may increase the risk of injury. A sport-related physical evaluation at the beginning of each season ensuring fitness to play can help to reduce risk of injury. KidsHealth provides information about what sports physicals are, why they may be appropriate and where you may go to get them.

    Learn more about Kids Health Sports Physicals.

  • Health Professional

    The role of health professionals in preventing soccer injuries has two main components:

    1. Providing ongoing education to players, parents, and coaches on effective injury prevention programs such as balance and resistance training; and
    2. Ensuring that injured players are completely healed and fit-to-perform before returning to soccer to prevent re-injury or chronic injury.

    Training Load

    It is important that players are not exposed to any sudden changes in intensity and duration of training or game play. A smart practice or training program involving a gradual buildup of workload and volume can reduce the risk of injury by up to 38%.

    Strength Training and Neuromuscular Training Program

    11+ Warm-Up Program
    Regular participation in the 11+ warm-up exercise program can reduce your players’ risk of soccer injury by up to 70%. This program, which consists of 15 running, balance, strength, and plyometric (jump training) exercises, has the ability to decrease one’s chances of sustaining common injuries to the hamstrings, ankles, knees, and groin. Players should complete the warm-up program at least twice a week.

    Learn more about the 11+ warm-up program.

    FIFA has a medical network and a free online course related to soccer-related injuries.

    Learn more about these resources.

    Oslo Sport Trauma Research Centre Neuromuscular Training
    The Oslo Sport Trauma Research Centre has developed strength training exercises designed to prevent injuries to the groin, knee, ankle, and other areas of the body. This resource includes videos and PDFs for download.

    Learn more about exercises to help prevent groin injuries.

    Learn more about exercises to help prevent knee injuries.

    Learn more about exercises to help prevent ankle injuries.

    For more exercises, visit http://fittoplay.org/.

    Get Set Neuromuscular Training
    The Get Set app contains exercises that can be done at home. Created by the Oslo Sports Trauma Center, Norwegian School of Sport Sciences, and Making Waves AS in 2014 for the International Olympic Committee, the app allows you to search by body part to view exercises that work to strengthen each area of the body, or search by sport to view a library of exercises that are specific to soccer.

    Download Get Set for Android.

    Download Get Set for iOS.

    Equipment

    Shin guards can reduce your risk of injury in soccer. In order to determine the correct size of the shin guard for optimal protection, measure from just below the knee to 1 inch above the top of the shoe, then subtract 1 inch. Ideally, the top of the guard should be around 2 to 3 inches below the knees and about 1 inch above where the ankle bends.

    Managing Concussion

    While concussions are not the most common injury in soccer, it is important to be aware of concussion signs and symptoms and know what to do if concussion is suspected. The Concussion Awareness Training Tool (CATT) is an online resource to learn more about how to diagnose and manage a concussion. CATT also includes resources on how to assess a potential concussion, as well as detailed Return to School and Return to Sport protocol.

    Other Considerations (about this section)

    Sport-related Physicals
    Soccer is a physically demanding sport and some pre-existing conditions may increase the risk of injury. A sport-related physical evaluation at the beginning of each season ensuring fitness to play can help to reduce risk of injury. The American Academy of Pediatrics provides information about preparticipation physical evaluation.

    Learn more about Preparticipation Physical Evaluation.