Soccer Injuries Affect Boys and Girls In Different Ways, Report Finds

Filed under: In The News, Sports

Concussion rates in soccer players are similar to those ice hockey and football players. Credit: Getty Images

What sort of injury is your child likely to suffer on the soccer field? That all depends. In boys, ankle injuries are the most common. For girls, it's knees.

That's one of the interesting nuggets contained in a clinical report, "Injuries in Youth Soccer," published in the February issue the journal Pediatrics.

Overall, soccer isn't among the most dangerous sports, says one of the report's authors, Dr. Andrew Gregory, assistant professor of Orthopaedics and Rehabilitation at Vanderbilt Medical Center in Nashville.

"There's inherent risk in all sports," he tells ParentDish. "I would put soccer in the middle; not as risky as boxing, mixed-martial arts, football and wrestling."

Research so far doesn't explain boys' tendency to hurt their ankles more than girls, Gregory says. One explanation might be "slide tackling," an aggressive play that exposes ankles to collisions. "It's something you see more in the boys' game, I think," he says.

Knee injuries have been a serious issue for girls in basketball and lacrosse, as well as soccer. Many knee injuries in girls are tears of the anterior cruciate ligament or ACL, which functions as a rubber band stabilizing the knee joint. Some studies show girls at four to six times greater risk than boys of damaging their ACLs.

The report doesn't address whether injuries are on the rise or falling. But it cites a survey that estimated the total number of soccer injuries in 1986 at 186,544, 44 percent of which were suffered by children younger than 15.

The report also addresses a hot topic in youth sports: Concussions.

For soccer players, the concussion rate is similar to players in ice hockey and football, the report notes. The most frequent causes of concussions in college soccer players is contact with another player (47 percent) and contact with the ball (24 percent). The most effective way to prevent head injuries from heading a soccer ball, the authors write, is to teach players proper technique.

Gregory, who authored the report with Dr. Chris Koutures, a sports medicine physician in Anaheim Hills, Calif., recommends that parents choose teams and leagues that enforce safety rules vigorously and train coaches in injury prevention. For girls, he's especially high on organizations -- such as the one his daughter, Sarah Frances, 11, plays in -- that emphasize ACL injury prevention.

"There are [education] programs that teach girls how to land correctly, how to cut with their knees and hips in good position," he says. "Those can be very effective."

ParentDish sports reporter Mark Hyman is the author of "Until It Hurts: America's Obsession With Youth Sports and How It Harms our Kids" (Beacon Press).

Have a suggestion for an article on youth sports? Contact Mark at

Related: Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) Injuries


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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.