As in most sports that involve running or kicking, soccer sees its fair share of foot injuries. Although many of these injuries are the result of collisions or entanglements with other players, many are preventable. Before getting in the game, make sure that you warm up properly by performing the appropriate stretching exercises, wearing proper-fitting cleats and taping your ankles for additional support if you have a history of foot and ankle problems. Finish off a game or practice with a series of cool-down exercises.
The severe twisting and turning of the ankle while playing soccer can cause metatarsal fractures, or breaks in the long bones in the front of the foot. This type of injury is also sometimes caused when one player steps on another player’s foot while running. Pain and swelling is immediate and the foot may appear deformed, but you may not see the onset of bruising for up to 24 hours. X-rays are necessary to diagnose this type of fracture and determine its severity. Treatment involves immobilizing the foot with a cast for boot for anywhere from 3 to 8 weeks, depending on how severe the fracture is. Some injuries can require surgery.
Adolescent boys who play basketball, soccer or participate in gymnastics are prone to Sever’s disease, a condition that affects the back of the heel near the Achilles tendon. This condition usually occurs from over-training without sufficient rest. It results in moderate to severe pain in the heel, which usually worsens when running. Some soccer players continue training, although they may add a stretching routine specific to the heel into their regime and insert a heel pad into their cleats. More severe cases may require x-rays to rule out other conditions, or a hiatus from soccer and running with a gradual reintroduction to the sport.
Repeated striking of the toes against the top of your soccer cleats can cause subungual hematoma, a condition affecting the toenails. This condition occurs when blood accumulates underneath the toenail, and may require that a physician pierce the toenail to drain off the excess blood. The Massachusetts General Hospital for Children reports that it is not uncommon for soccer players to completely lose two or even three toenails each playing season due to this condition.
An October 2003 article in “Podiatry Today” places ankle sprains as the most common injuries sustained by soccer athletes. The cause for these injuries are typically running on an uneven surface, making a sharp turn while running down the field, collision with another player or twisting the ankle when landing from a jump. Sprains often swell and bruise quickly; icing the joint can help to alleviate this. Depending on the severity of the injury, your doctor may require you to tape the ankle or wear a compression boot or soft cast for up to three weeks. The use of crutches for the first few days is often encourage as well.
Achilles tendinitis is not technically an injury from soccer; but the condition can be exacerbated by the game. It is characterized by a pain in your heel and the tendon when running; or even walking. It is caused by short calf muscles or increasing the intensity of your activity without preparing your muscles in advance. Tendinitis in your Achilles may even be caused by your athletic shoes -- not enough support or ill-fitting. If you suspect an inflamed Achilles tendon, use ice, for 15 to 20 minutes at least 2 to three times a day. But, most importantly, stop playing soccer immediately. If there is a tear or rupture of the Achilles tendon, it may involve surgery. Your doctor can determine the condition of your tendon with an x-ray or MRI scan.