ON-FIELD INJURY RECOGNITION: IF NOT NOW, THEN WHEN?

By Dev K. Mishra, M.D., President, Sideline Sports Doc, Clinical Assistant Professor of Orthopedic Surgery, Stanford University

Key Points:

  • A recently published study provides a 25 year data analysis of emergency department visits for injuries from youth soccer and shows a year to year significant increase in injuries of all types, especially concussion
  • In spite of excellent efforts at rules changes, better equipment, and training methods injuries in youth soccer will still happen
  • A coach as first responder on the field of play is best equipped to provide basic injury recognition that will positively effect an athlete’s health

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A comprehensive and well-conducted study on injury rates in youth soccer was published
online yesterday in the journal Pediatrics. I encourage all who are interested in youth soccer’s growth as a sport and even those involved in other youth sports to have a close look at this study.

This study provided data gathered from 1990 through 2014 and showed that over this quarter century period the number of soccer related injuries treated in hospital emergency departments in the U.S. increased by 78% and the yearly rate of injuries increased by 111% among players age 7 to 17.

The article discusses some of the reasons for the increase, amongst which are larger number of kids (especially girls) playing the sport, better awareness and broader definitions of some injuries (such as concussion), and also speculates that more aggressive play could play a role in higher injury rates.

My main takeaway: injuries in youth soccer are going to happen. My main question for youth clubs and leagues: what are you doing about it?

Steps You Can Take To Reduce Injuries: Rules, Equipment, Training

There’s been a lot of very positive steps taken on the injury reduction side. Amongst these are US Soccer Federation’s new rules regarding heading for the U13 and younger age groups. I view this as very positive, although concussion tends to be more common in the older age groups not affected by the rules changes. Still, rules changes are important and commendable. Goals should be properly secured. Training regimens such as the FIFA 11+ should be used.

Injuries Will Still Happen- A Coach Needs To Be Prepared

The study published yesterday provided injury statistics for those injuries that were cared for by physicians in an Emergency Department. That’s an important and large number but it drastically underestimates the more common day-to-day injuries that a coach and parent will deal with that never make it to an ER. Even relatively serious injuries such as an ACL tear that goes straight to the orthopedic surgeon’s office, or a moderate ankle sprain treated with a bag of ice, a brace, and possible physical therapy will not be captured by the data.

What this means is that for a coach as first responder on the field of play you’re going to see quite a few injuries common to the sport and to the age group that may never be seen by a doctor. If an injury happens are you adequately trained to make that basic decision of play/sit out/go to doctor now?

Basic Injury Recognition Training Is Critical

ssd.bannerSo our view is this: as long as sports are played and in spite of everyone’s best preventive efforts injuries will still happen. And if injuries happen the first responder coach should have a basic set of skills that helps that young athlete. No one expects you to be trained like an athletic trainer, nurse, or physician. But a basic knowledge of how to evaluate common injuries using a consistent method will go a very long way to making the sport better for all kids.

The methods we teach at Sideline Sports Doc and currently used in the passcard process for all coaches and staff at US Club Soccer are thoroughly vetted and proven through decades of experience. Our content is produced by me and my partners at Stanford and in association with Midwest Orthopaedics at Rush in Chicago. It’s simple, it’s fast, and it works.

Whether you choose to work with us or someone else, I urge you to take action now. What are you waiting for? If not now, then when?