With the Women’s World Cup underway, it’s a good time to discuss injuries in girls’ soccer. Soccer is one of the most popular sports in the world for young women, but it also presents a real risk of injuries. In fact, studies often show soccer to have the highest injury rate amongFemale soccer player female high school sports.

Researchers in Denmark were concerned that most of available studies looking at injury rates in soccer underestimated the frequency of injuries. Therefore, in a study recently published in the American Journal of Sports Medicine, they surveyed players by text message to collect data. Mikkel Bek Clausen and his team surveyed 498 players between the ages of 15 and 18 on 32 Danish teams every week for the entire spring 2012 season.

A novel text message survey
They sent each young female soccer player four text message questions each week:

• Last week, did you have any pain or discomfort during a match or training session?
• Last week, were you absent from training and/or matches?
• How many hours of soccer training did you do last week?
• How many minutes of match play did you do last week?

The authors defined an injury as any new onset of discomfort or pain felt by a player that was related to soccer. They also specifically analyzed time-loss injuries, or those causing a player to miss upcoming training or matches.

Using this novel text message survey, they collected some surprising data:

• Among the 498 participants, 424 injuries occurred.
The overall injury incidence was 15.3 injuries per 1000 hours.
• 9.7 time-loss injuries occurred for every 1000 hours of exposure.
1.1 severe injuries occurred for every 1000 hours of exposure.
• Players with a higher average exposure (games and practices) have lower risks of time-loss injuries.
• 86% of the injuries involve the lower extremities, especially the knee (25%) and the ankle (20%).

The injury rates found in this study are significantly higher than in other studies of girls’ soccer. In fact, this rate of severe injuries is three times higher than in prior studies. It is important, though, as it might more accurately reflect the true incidence. Soccer ball in netWeekly text messages might capture more injuries than those reported by a coach or team’s medical staff.

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Given that FIFA estimates that roughly 121 million people play soccer occasionally, and that the study found that lower soccer exposure led to higher rates of injuries, this group of “weekend warriors” or recreational soccer players might be at particularly high risk.

Also considering the high rates of severe injuries, especially of the knee and ankle, teams might be well served by incorporating neuromuscular exercise programs to try to decrease ACL tears, ankle sprain, groin injuries and other lower extremity injuries.

Does this data surprise you? What can we do to decrease the rates of serious injuries in girls’ soccer? I would love to hear your ideas below!

Clausen MB, Zebis MK, Møller M, Krustrup P, Hölmich P, Wedderkopp N, Andersen LL, Christensen KB, Thorborg K. High injury incidence in adolescent female soccer. Am J Sports Med. 2014 Oct;42(10):2487-94.