Understanding the Most Common Injury in Soccer
A dynamic expert in injury prevention, rehabilitation, sports medicine and athletic conditioning, John Gallucci, Jr., is the Medical Coordinator for Major League Soccer (MLS), overseeing the medical care of 600 professional soccer players. Gallucci Jr. is the former Head Trainer of the New York Red Bulls 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.
Concussions are a real problem in soccer – and knowledge is a great tool for understanding the their risks. Here are Gallucci Jr.’s insights on the importance of understanding concussions:
There are 1.8 million concussions documented yearly in the United States, making it the most common head injury not only in soccer, but in sports today. Parents, coaches and players all need to recognize that a concussion is not like any other injury. It is a traumatic brain injury that can have lasting effects and can potentially be harmful to daily living by affecting the way we think, feel and move.
Signs and Symptoms of Concussion
Each athlete is an individual, and more so with concussions than any other injury, and the expressed signs and symptoms are going to vary from person to person. Symptom onset can be immediate or delayed by days or even weeks. Athletes with potential brain trauma must be evaluated immediately and must continue to be evaluated.
Please note that there does not need to be a loss of consciousness in order for a concussion to occur.
This injury is very specific to the individual, and some people are simply more susceptible than others, with a lower injury threshold.
The most common concussion symptoms include, but are not limited, to the following:
• Balance Problems
• Difficulty Concentrating
Other signs and symptoms can vary over time, and can include sensitivity to light, difficulty in concentrating on TV, schoolwork or in conversation, changes in mood, anxiety, depression, sleep disturbances (sleeping more or less) and difficulty sleeping through the night.
The best-practice approach to handling concussions, outlined below, is the treatment protocol most accepted within the medical community. It has evolved over the years and is now trickling down from the professional leagues to collegiate and high school athletics.
• Stage 1: No activity. Physical and cognitive rest. Minimum one week removal from all exertional activities. Possible removal from school. After a full week of being symptom free, progress to Stage 2.
• Stage 2: Introduction of light aerobic exercise, at less than 70% of maximum heart rate, on an arc trainer, stationary bike or elliptical machine. Conditioning must be low-impact conditioning to prevent jarring to the cranium. Duration should be between 20 and 40 minutes, depending on the athlete’s prior conditioning level, which is dependent on the athlete’s sport and activity level.
• Stage 3: Introduction of low impact activities. Begin with a warm-up on the bike or elliptical and progress to body-weight exercises like lunges and squats, then to a light jog. Introduce light shuffling, cutting, and ladder drills.
• Stage 4: Incorporation of non-contact, sport-specific drills. Conditioning intensity can increase to include sprinting, running and cutting drills. Progressive resistive exercises with stretch bands and strength bands can also be introduced.
• Stage 5: Return to practice. Day 1 at 50%, participating in half of the reps as the rest of the team. No contact or collision. The athlete can progress to a full practice as long as symptoms do not recur. Continue with cardio and strength training. The athlete must achieve his or her prior level of conditioning before returning to any soccer game.
• Stage 6: Symptom-free. The athlete is basically back to normal. Full medical clearance from a physician trained in the management of concussions is given. The athlete can then participate in a full-contact soccer practice.
Athletes, parents and coaches are often frustrated by the lengthiness of the return-to-sport protocol following concussion, and sometimes feel medical professionals are being overbearing or too careful.
This may be true, but the risks involved are too great to ignore, and due to the potentially damaging effects of a concussion, it is much safer to err on the side of caution.
For more details and information on concussions, purchase a copy of Soccer Injury Prevention & Treatment: A Guide to Optimal Performance for Players, Parents and Coaches, on Amazon or with Barnes and Noble.
As always, please ask your medical provide for specifics on concussions and all medical related issues. This information on SoccerToday is for general educational purposes only.