Study: Emergency room visits for soccer injuries soar

By Mike Woitalla

Youth soccer-related injuries treated in emergency departments more than doubled from 106 per 10,000 players in 1990 to 220 per 10,000 players in 2013, according to a study published on Monday in the medical journal Pediatrics.

“Kids are playing more frequently than they used to. They are playing year-round and in more leagues than they have done before,” Tracy Meehan, a researcher at Ohio's Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, which conducted the study, told CBS News.

The retrospective analysis was conducted among children 7 through 17 years of age. Patients 12 to 17 years old accounted for 72.7% of injuries.

Injury Breakdown
34.6% -- sprain or strain.
23.2% -- fracture.
21.9% -- soft-tissue injury.
7.3% -- concussion/closed head injury.

Head injuries contributed significantly to the spike in emergency room visits.

The annual rate of concussions/closed head injuries per 10,000 participants increased by 1595.6%, from 1990 to 2014. The increase, however, could be attributed to the growing awareness of the dangers of head injuries, prompting more trips to the emergency room.

"The incidence of concussion/CHI [closed head injury] among youth soccer players may, in fact, be increasing," write the study's authors Nicholas A. Smith, Thiphalak Chounthirath, Huiyun Xiang. "In addition, there has been a growing awareness among players, coaches, athletic trainers, medical professionals, and the public in general about the potentially serious consequences of sports-related concussion.

"Many states have passed youth sports concussion laws since 2009. This awareness may have led to better recognition of concussions and referrals to EDs [emergency departments] by soccer coaches and athletic trainers. Parents may have lower thresholds for taking their child to the ED for evaluation of a suspected concussion. ED medical personnel also may be diagnosing and documenting suspected concussion more often in recent years. The sharp increase after 2008 in concussions/CHIs in this study also has been observed in other youth sports, especially youth football."

During the years covered in the study, youth soccer and high school soccer participation doubled.

"We are so much more aware today than we were 20 years ago about taking care of injuries correctly," Scott Sailor, president of the National Athletic Trainers' Association, told CNN. "We've been able to see more athletic trainers and health professionals get around student athletes today. ... We have more people keeping an eye out for injury and making sure they get proper care.

"We certainly don't like seeing more kids getting hurt, but if one of the reasons more kids are getting hurt is because they are out there, playing and exercising, then that's a good thing."

But Sailor added: "I'm not a big fan of the multiple season thing. I really do think rest and recovery are good for decreasing injury rates. Kids going from season to season can really create some problems, both physically and psychologically, as far as things like burnout."

More than 98% of the children who visited emergency rooms for soccer-related injuries were treated and released.

The study also reported that the increase in the number of soccer injuries treated in U.S. emergency rooms is a trend that also was observed for other youth sports from 2001 to 2013.

Soccer-Related Injuries Treated in Emergency Departments: 1990–2014 (Nicholas A. Smith, Thiphalak Chounthirath, Huiyun Xiang)

7 comments about "Study: Emergency room visits for soccer injuries soar".
  1. JR Likens, September 13, 2016 at 5:35 p.m.

    Amazingly they didn't mention that part of the problem is likely related to turf fields.

    More concussions can be the result of the player's head bouncing off a harder surface than grass.

    Knee injuries can also be attributed to many kids wearing the wrong type of cleats. Some cleats grab the turf too much so when the athlete changes direction the knee turns but the cleat ddoesn't release as quickly.

    There are probably more heat related problems, like heat exhaustion, playing on the turf fields. Some days you might as well be playimg in an oven. When kids have to pour water on their feet because they feel like they are on fire, their is a problem. I believe it was a Soccer America letter from years ago that said they have measured turf field temp of close to 200 degrees. Even temps of 120 - 150 on the field cannot be healthy for players.

  2. :: SilverRey :: replied, September 13, 2016 at 5:54 p.m.


    Field-Turf has been a huge detriment to soccer. It was pushed and advertised as being better/cheaper than grass simply because they were looking for ways to get rid of old tires.

  3. Fire Paul Gardner Now replied, September 13, 2016 at 5:59 p.m.

    Have to disagree re: turf. A well maintained grass field is certainly preferable to turf. But at youth levels, grass fields are often in terrible condition and turf represents a huge upgrade.

  4. Eddie Rockwell, September 14, 2016 at 8:37 a.m.

    I prefer natural grass far above field turf. However at a game my son was playing this weekend, the grass field was much harder than the field turf field next to it. But the grass field was definitely cooler. And field turf fields are absolutely much hotter to the point of being dangerous in sunny, hot conditions.

    The reason they have become so prevalent has nothing to do with recycling old tires and everything to do with cost (lack of regular maintenance) and durability (can use constantly without significant deterioration)...

  5. JR Likens replied, September 15, 2016 at 1:01 p.m.

    while some "grass" fields are more dirt and can be pretty hard, grass fields are typically softer (and as you mentioned, definitely cooler.

    The main problem with grass fields are the ankle breaking holes that many have.

    While most site up keep costs as the reason for converting to turf, Potomac Soccer Wire did an article years ago comparing up-keep cost for both Turf and a bermuda field and they are about the same. Unfortunately, most turf fields do not last as long as they should as look like crap after just a couple years because most clubs are not maintaining them properly. When you have thousands of kids from every local league (soccer, football, lacrosse, field hockey, etc) playing on them around the clock plus golf carts and other similar ATVs driving on them, they take a beating!

    The primary advantage of a turf field though, is the minimal number of lost practices/games. Many grass fields are closed when it just sprinkles. Obviously the grass fields get destroyed with numerous teams practicing in the rain on them. Snow covered, closed for sure. With turf, rain or snow is almost a non-factor. We have even shoveled snow off turf in order to play.

    Once they can definitively tie the rubber pieces to cancer, turf fields will disappear (unless they find a non-cancer causing replacement for the rubber) and lawsuits against clubs and county/state governments will pop up all over the country.

  6. Goal Goal, September 15, 2016 at 10:41 p.m.

    I think a contributing factor is the officiating. The officials are hesitant in making the calls on intentional fouls. They are hesitant on the use of the yellow and afraid to show the red. Officials have two big responsibilities one of them being player safety. In my mind this rough play has gotten out of hand and the reason can be shared by two. Coaches who teach it and officials that let it happen.

  7. JR Likens replied, September 19, 2016 at 10:55 a.m.

    agree 100%. What some refs let players get away with would be considered assault & battery off the field!

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