Over the past month, soccer or football fans have witnessed “the beautiful game” being played at the highest international level at the World Cup in South Africa. Yesterday I watched the final game, along with billions of other people throughout the world, as the Spanish beat the Dutch. Congratulations to the long suffering football fans of Spain.
The World Cup has focused attention on youth soccer in Canada. Parents with kids registered in soccer in their communities already known soccer is a popular participation sport for children. According to Stats Canada, soccer has the highest participation rate for children aged 5-14. According to the Whitby Iroquois Soccer Club there are over 6000 registered soccer players from age 5 to 20 in Whitby, ON.
One of the attractions of soccer is there are fewer traumatic injuries in soccer as compared to other sports, however, soccer injuries in the foot and ankle are a common occurrence. The American Academy of Pediatrics conducted an analysis of all soccer injuries and found there was a variation in the body location where the injury occurred depending on age and gender of the soccer player. Foot injuries accounted for 1% to 28%, of all soccer injuries. Ankle injuries account for 13% - 23% of all soccer injuries. Knee injuries account for 10% - 26% of all soccer injuries.
In my practice in Whitby, ON I have treated many children and teenagers with soccer related foot injuries and problems such as ankle sprains, plantar fasciitis, shin splints and ingrown nails. The most common injury in boys aged 10 to 13 years is calcaneal apophysitis or Sever's disease. This is caused by traction injury to the back of the heel by the Achilles tendon. This traction pulls apart the growth plate at the back of the heel bone away from the main heel bone. The stress on the back of the heel can be caused by a tight calf muscle, an increase level of running in cleated shoes and running on very soft ground after a rainfall. The combination of all of these factors can leave the foot unstable putting excessive stress on the growth plate in the heel. This injury can be treated by using heel lifts and gentle calf muscle stretching. These two interventions reduce the stress applied to the heel growth plate from the calf muscle and Achilles tendon. Once the initial pain and discomfort has been relieved, custom foot orthoses can be prescribed to stabilize the foot and heel from excessive motion.
In my next blog, I will discuss shin splints in female soccer players and the elements of a good soccer shoe. Enjoy watching your kids play soccer this summer.