Soccer Injury Prevention and Treatment – Part 2
Soccer News: A dynamic expert in injury prevention, rehabilitation, sports medicine and athletic conditioning, Gallucci is the Medical Coordinator for Major League Soccer (MLS), overseeing the medical care of 600 professional soccer players. Gallucci is the former Head Trainer of the New York Red Bulls MLS team and is a Sports Medicine consultant for professional athletes in the NHL, NFL, NBA, MLB, and USA Wrestling. Gallucci, Jr. is also President of JAG Physical Therapy & JAG Pediatric Therapy.
Diane Scavuzzo: What are the worst mistakes players make?
John Gallucci Jr: In my book, Soccer Injury Prevention and Treatment, we talk about various injuries of a soccer player, but we never really talk about what type of mistakes the players make, and what are some great tips of optimal performance. Basically, we need to understand that the biggest mistake that we have in youth athletics is “too much, too soon.”
If you look at the normal high school athlete that goes into preseason for soccer, usually they end up going into the first 3-4 days and the coach does double sessions of anywhere from 2-2.5 hours. As we know, now you are going from basically summer months of relaxing to now being able to run close to 4-5 hours in a day. Well, common sense will tell you that that is way too much, way too soon.
It is important that soccer players condition themselves all year round to keep their aerobic threshold up, but also to keep their lower extremities and core strong. A lot of high school and college programs put athletes on strengthening and conditioning programs in the off season. To me, the best way to achieve optimal performance for any soccer athlete is to truly follow these plans in the off season to progress, so this way when you do go into pre-season it’s not “too much, too soon,” and ultimately you will not sustain muscle strains, or tendonitis because your body is truly acclimated. That is one of the biggest things that always cross my mind when talking about optimal performance and the common mistakes.
Another common mistake that we have is a hydration component. Athletes have to understand that they have to hydrate. Hydration for soccer players is very important. It is recommended that the average soccer player drinks at least 6 8oz glasses of fluid per day as a pre-hydration or hydration component and then at least have 6-8oz glasses every 20-30 minutes of competition, to make sure you are rehydrating. So it is very important that athletes understand to progress appropriately with hydration, because our bodies are made up of water. When we dehydrate, it can actually cause muscle strains.
Diane Scavuzzo: What do coaches need to know, to make informed decisions on player injuries?
John Gallucci Jr: The easiest way to answer that question is for coaches to truly take first aid and CPR courses before they ever coach a game or practice to understand the simple guidelines of first aid. As a physical therapist and athletic trainer, one of the most important things that I could possibly teach coaches is to really understand that a lot of times they will be by themselves on the field, and ultimately they should know how to care for an acute sprain or strain until that athlete has the opportunity to see a medical professional.
It is also very important that coaches do not assume the risk and liability on themselves to clear an athlete. Too many times an athlete will be sent home injured, and then the athlete will come back two days later and basically the coaches will ask them the question, “Are you OK?” If this athlete is under the age of 18 years old, the coach, as soon as they let them take the field, is assuming the liability and risk that this athlete is OK to participate. Coaches should always get a medical clearance from either a certified athletic trainer or physician, that this athlete is OK to progress and train. Too many times have we see athletes that are concussed, they go home, they are removed from the field of play, and ultimately no one has cleared the athlete. Now education guidelines throughout the states, laws throughout the states, and even our Center for Disease Control here in America, have made requirements for Return-to-Play protocols that basically assist the coaches, and remove them from being involved with clearing the athlete.
The biggest thing that I can share with coaches is do not assume the risk and liability for any injured athlete. Make sure that the appropriate medical professional is taking care of this athlete, and make sure that you are in communication to make sure this athlete is not returning to the field and can possibly sustain another injury.
Diane Scavuzzo: What are the biggest potential injuries for girls and boys playing soccer and how can they be prevented?
John Gallucci Jr: Female athletes have a higher incidence of ACL injuries. These injuries are sustained for a myriad of reasons, which can include biomechanical, hormonal, landing techniques, strength components, and ratios. It is important that research has shown us over the years that appropriate ways to increase the flexibility, teach the biomechanics, increase the overall strength ratio between the quads and hamstrings that can decrease the incidence of the female ACL injury. When looking at female knee injuries, more are based on the instances I have given.
Male injuries are interesting in soccer; they’re usually sustained more from collision, especially when looking at the 14-20 year old male athletes. Also, not really understanding the rules of the game, or not following the rules of the game. You ultimately see more collision injuries in that grouping of male athletes.
Overall, the commonality of soccer injuries is pretty equal except for the knee injuries we have seen. When we talk about male and female concussions, it’s actually interesting that female concussions outweigh male concussions. There has been different neuropsychological testing; there have been different data collections, which try to explain why there is a difference. Ultimately, researches have come back with a component that the females might just be more honest and report their symptoms. So it is important to understand that both athletes can become concussed, and it can be very difficult to prevent a concussion.