By Nancy Simpkins
Soccer is the most played sport in the world, and the number of people taking to the fields in the U.S. is gradually increasing. Although soccer is considered to be safer than football, it’s popularity means that there are many soccer injuries. Among soccer players, the knee is one of the most commonly injured areas, second only to the ankle.
Nearly half of soccer’s knee injuries occur during tackling. These injuries include sprains and strains, meniscus tears, osteoarthritis, patellofemoral pain, and patella subluxations and dislocations.
Another common soccer injury is a rupture of the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL). This ligament runs from the front of the tibia (shin bone) back and up to the outer femur (thigh bone). It prevents the tibia from moving forward, which keeps the knee stable. Injuries to this ligament can occur as a result of landing from a jump, slowing down while abruptly changing direction on a planted foot, or from an opponent striking the outer part of the leg during a slide tackle. A rupture of the ACL needs to be repaired surgically.
Physical therapy before ACL surgery can decrease inflammation, swelling and pain. It can also improve range of motion and strength, and normalize gait. The athlete will also attend physical therapy postoperatively, and depending on the athlete’s progress, the physician will recommend waiting six to twelve months before the athlete returns to competition.
Meniscus tears, which are tears to the shock-absorbing cartilage in the knee, are associated with ligament injuries and can require more aggressive rehabilitation. A comprehensive strengthening program is often sufficient treatment, but if not, arthroscopic surgery can repair the tear.