Coaching sports can be rewarding and stressful as it is without having to worry about injuries to your players. However, there may be situations when appropriate medical personnel are not available and the care of the athlete is in your hands. Here are some general guidelines regarding injuries that often occur on the soccer field.
- Coaches should at the very minimum be certified in CPR and First Aid. Knowing these basics will allow you to think clearly should an emergency arise.
- Remember R.I.C.E.: Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation. Most common injuries encountered in soccer will follow this general principle. DO NOT use heat while swelling is present to the extremity. Apply ice to the injured area for 15-20 minutes. Adding heat will increase the swelling, while ice will help decrease it.
- Let common sense prevail. If there is a deformity, DO NOT move the athlete. Call 911 (or the local equivalent) and let trained personnel handle the situation.
- Communicate with parents and inform them of the situation if they are not on-site at the time of the injury.
- Be conservative. If you have doubts as to an athletes’ ability to play, do not let them play.
- Most ankle injuries involve ligaments and tendons (i.e. sprains). In instances like this, follow the R.I.C.E. principle. These injuries often turn into recurring injuries if the athlete returns to activity too soon. If the athlete experiences pain during activity, he/she should be removed from competition. If the pain level increases in the following days, the athlete should see a physician.
- If a deformity is present, do not attempt to put the limb in place or move the limb. Immediately call 911 or EMS personnel.
Deep Thigh Bruise
Usually caused by direct contact to the thigh, a deep thigh bruise is very painful and can lead to potential problems.
- Ice immediately with the knee in a bent position. This will help maintain flexibility to the thigh muscle.
- Instruct the athlete to keep stretching the thigh. This will prevent swelling/blood from “settling” in the muscle and limit movement.
The knee is the most vulnerable joint in the body and should be dealt with using caution. Injuries can occur to the ligaments, tendons, kneecap, cartilage (meniscus) and bones (growth plates). Here are some indications of significant injury to the knee:
- Hearing or feeling a “pop” or a “snap” in the knee.
- Feeling that the knee “gave out”
- Sharp pain
- Obvious deformity
- Limited movement
- Apply ice immediately and immobilize the knee. When immobilizing the knee, be sure to splint the ankle. As a general rule to follow, the joint above and below the injured joint should be splinted.
- In all instances involving a knee injury, the athlete must follow-up with a physician.
There are currently many different theories regarding head injuries and concussions and how to treat them. The following guidelines are essential to insuring safe return to play for your athlete:
When in doubt, keep the athlete out. Any player who appears to have suffered a concussion should be removed from participation and evaluated by a physician as soon as is practical. Players exhibiting prolonged loss of consciousness or marked amnesia should be evaluated immediately in an emergency.