A Coach's Guide To Youth Soccer Injuries

The objective of this guide is to teach you how to recognize a mild injury, a moderate injury, or a severe injury. This process is called “triage”, and once the severity of the injury is determined you will be able to make the decision whether your injured player requires immediate medical attention, should sit out, or whether she might be able to return to play after some simple treatment. Always leave diagnosing and final treatment of an injury to trained professionals.

Use These Four Steps To Evaluate Every On-Field Injury

What happened? When evaluating an injury you should always take a history, which means listening to the player to determine what happened. Ask questions such as; “was there contact with the ground or another player? Was it an awkward twisting without contact?” Once you have this info you will know where to look and what to expect. Indicators of a serious injury are words from the player such as, “I heard a pop or a tear.”

What does it look like? How does the injured area present itself? Is there any swelling, bleeding, bruising or an obvious broken bone? Immediate bruising or swelling indicates that you are dealing with a severe injury as does a visible deformity.

What does it feel like? As you cautiously feel the injured area, does the player experience pain or can you feel any swelling? Keep in mind pain is sometimes unreliable as some athletes will not complain about the pain even with a severe injury. Also quite often some young soccer players will magnify a minor injury with complaints of severe pain. You are always best off assuming the complaints of severe pain are legitimate and treat the injury as severe.

Can they move on their own? Ask your player to move the injured body part, (with the exception of the neck), on his or her own without your assistance. This is very important yet often overlooked. If the player can’t move the injured area on their own you may provide gentle assistance, but never force the player to move. Inability to move an injured body part is generally a sign of a more severe injury. In contrast, immediate full motion with little pain is usually a sign of a mild injury.

Mild Injury: The player is able to move the injured area on their own.

Moderate Injury: If you need to gently assist the movement that typically indicates a moderate injury.

Severe Injury: The player cannot move the injured area at all. All movement is being  supplied by the coach.

Remember to be consistent, calm, quick and “when in doubt, keep them out”.

Injury Management on the Sideline/Bench – RICE

“RICE” stands for Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation. This is the basic sideline/bench management for most shoulder, arm, and lower extremity injuries. Always keep your player’s long term health in mind. Do not return the athlete to play if you have any questions about the injury and management. Seek qualified medical assistance when you are in doubt. It is much better to sit the player out for a day or two than to lose the player for the season.

Rest: The player should rest and avoid using the injured body part. There are different degrees of rest that are appropriate for different injuries at different stages of recovery. Usually, rest initially means removing the player from the pitch and evaluating them on the sideline.

Ice: Not only does ice make your player comfortable by easing pain, it also reduces swelling and inflammation. Ice should initially be applied for 20 minutes out of each hour. It is best to have a plastic bag, thin towel or cloth between the ice and skin. Try not to apply the ice directly on the skin. Instant cold packs can be purchased and kept in your first aid kit. Hold them in place on the injury by using an elastic wrap. Continue the intermittent icing for the first 48 hours after the injury. Heat could increase swelling so should be used with caution.

Compression: Keep swelling to a minimum by applying an elastic wrap snugly but not too tight. If the wrapping is too tight you can limit the blood circulation in the area past the injured part. Ideally you should wrap the entire exposed limb from the most distant point to an area above the injury. For example an ankle injury should be wrapped starting at the toes to several inches above the ankle.

Elevation: Minimize swelling by using gravity to remove excess fluid from the injured area. The most effective elevation is with the injured part higher than the level of the heart. For example, in treating an ankle injury, support the knee and lower leg on a backpack while the athlete is lying down to elevate the ankle above the chest.

To better evaluate specific soccer injuries, (ankle, concussion, contusion, etc.), check out
sidelinesports.com to download an excellent  complete guide to “Youth Soccer Injury Management”. For a minimal fee you can download the entire guide and take an on-line course on youth soccer injury recognition by Dr. Dev Mishra, Assistant Professor of Orthopedic Surgery and Sports Medicine at Stanford University.


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