foot and ankle injuries in children who play soccerSoccer is an incredibly popular sport among youth in Seattle. Unfortunately it's also more dangerous than it used to be. Between 1990 and 2014 the the incidence of youth soccer players that wound up in the ER increased from 100 out of 10,000 to 225 out of 10,000. 

Girls are even prone to injuries than boys since boys gain muscle as they enter puberty but girls do not. According to the New York Times, girls run in a stiffer and straighter posture which may put them at greater risk when completing plays with twists and jumps.

At the Foot and Ankle Center of Lake City, we've seen our fair share of foot and ankle injuries in kids and teens that play soccer. Our goal is to get your children back to playing the sport they love as soon as possible.  

Here are some of the more common injuries and conditions we see in youth soccer players.

Ankle Sprains in Young Soccer Players

Ankle sprains are one of the most common injuries in youth soccer. In fact, researchers have estimated that ankle injuries account for 10 to 30% of all sports related injuries in young athletes and from 16 to 29% of all soccer specific injuries. It's almost impossible to tell if your soccer player has broken a bone or sprained an ankle without imaging--these include X-rays for identifying broken bones and ultrasound to find out the degree of soft tissue damage. Sometimes an MRI will be necessary.

While minor injuries can be treated with rest, protection of the site, and time away from the field, more severe ankle sprains will require immobilization and also rehabilitation through physical therapy. Sometimes surgery will be required.

Ankle and Toe Fractures

Ankle fractures and metatarsal (specific bones in the foot) fractures can take your little athlete out of soccer and sometimes require surgery.

Overuse Injuries in Young Soccer Players

Heel pain injuries are common in many sports including youth soccer. Both require reducing inflammation, correcting foot mechanics through orthotics, stretching and physical therapy.

Stress fractures can also affect youth when bones become too strained from overuse, increasing training too quickly, or wearing shoes that don't provide good support. The primary treatment for a stress fracture is rest. Warm-ups, good stable shoes, increasing sports time slowly, and eating a healthy diet are key to prevention of stress fractures. 

Youth who play sports are also at higher risk for a heel pain condition called Sever's Disease. Active kids develop this condition when their heel plate has not fully closed leading to inflammation and pain. While the symptoms may look similar to other heel pain conditions, the primary treatment is rest. Orthotics and stretching can also be helpful.

Contusions and Bruises

Every time your youth soccer player gets kicked or wears shoes that don't quite fit right they place themselves at risk for contusions and bruises. For immediate treatment we recommend RICE (rest, ice, compression, and elevation). It's also important for them to get further evaluation at our office to ensure the damage is not beyond superficial.

Ingrown Toenails and Other Ball of Foot Problems

Although some soccer players want a really tight fitting shoe, foot problems such as ingrown toenails, turf toe, and neuromas can occur. Purchasing a shoe that fits properly is essential to preventing these foot issues.

Preventing Foot and Ankle Injuries in Young Soccer Players in Seattle, Washington

To prevent foot and ankle injuries in your young soccer player, follow these recommendations.

  • Bring in your athlete for a pre-season physical examination.
  • Make sure their muscles are in condition for soccer; about a month before they begin to play they should start practicing their soccer moves.
  • Remind them to drink plenty of water even before they get thirsty
  • Teach them to warm up prior to playing soccer; for example, a slow jog and then muscle stretches
  • Choose athletic shoes made for soccer; also check with your doctor to assess if they have any specific foot issues that might predispose them to foot injuries
  • Replace athletic shoes every six months
  • Teach them to tell you or their coach about any pain or discomfort they're having.
Dr. Rion Berg
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A podiatrist in North Seattle treating families for over 40 years.
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