15 Most Common Soccer Injuries

Soccer player down on the field holding his knee in pain
Rana Faure/Photodisc/Getty Images

Soccer injuries are generally described as being either acute or cumulative. Acute injuries are traumatic, often caused by a fall, blow, or collision between players.

Cumulative injuries are those in which repetitive stress on a muscle, joint, or connective tissue triggers progressively worsening aches, pain, and physical impairment. Knowing how and why they occur is the first step to preventing them.

Knee Injuries in Soccer

Among the most common injuries in soccer are those that involve the knee. This is because soccer is a sport that not only involves kicking, but one that requires players to stop and shift directions quickly.

Explosive, spontaneous movement places extreme rotational stress on the knees as well as the ligaments that support them. When the stress exceeds the limitation of a ligament, it can cause a sprain or tear in the knee joint.

The four cruciate ligaments that help stabilize the knee joint include the following:

  • Anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) at the front of the knee
  • Posterior cruciate ligament (PCL) at the back of the knee
  • Medial collateral ligament (MCL) on the inside of the knee
  • Lateral collateral ligament (LCL) on the outside of the knee

ACL Injury

Injuries involving the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) at the front of the knee, are the most common knee injury among soccer players. Because ligaments are less retractable than muscles or tendons, those in the knees are especially vulnerable to damage.

Cruciate Ligament Injury

This type of injury does not always cause pain, but typically causes a loud "pop" when it occurs. Pain and swelling will develop within 24 hours, followed by the loss of range of motion and tenderness along the joint line.

Meniscus Injury

Another common soccer injury is a meniscus injury. Meniscus injury involves a C-shaped piece of cartilage that cushions the space between the femur and the shin bone (tibia). Meniscus tears are painful and often the result of twisting, pivoting, decelerating, or a sudden impact.

Knee Injury Diagnoses

When there is injury to the knee, it is diagnosed on the following grading scale:

  • Grade 1: Mild sprain
  • Grade 2: Partial tear
  • Grade 3: Complete tear

15 Most Common Soccer Injuries

Although many soccer injuries involve the lower extremities, other parts of the body can become injured, just as with any other contact sport. Here are some of the more common injuries experienced among soccer athletes.

Ankle Sprains

Ankle sprains occur when there is a stretching and tearing of ligaments surrounding the ankle joint. Lateral ankle sprains (outside of the ankle) can occur in soccer when a player kicks the ball with the top of their foot. A medial ankle sprain (inside of the ankle) can occur when the toes are turned out while the foot is flexed upward.

Achilles Tendonitis

Achilles tendonitis is a chronic injury that occurs as a result of overuse and is felt as pain in the back of the ankle. Soccer players perform repetitive and sudden movements that may eventually cause this injury over time.

Achilles Tendon Rupture

A rupture involves the partial or complete tear of the Achilles tendon, often with an audible "pop." This can occur when a soccer player performs fast, explosive movements such as chasing after the soccer ball or darting away from a member of the opposite team.

Concussion

Concussion is a form of mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI) caused by a sudden impact to the head. While soccer players are trained to hit the ball with their head, when they are unprepared for impact, concussion can occur.

Groin Pull 

A groin pull is a type of strain that occurs when the muscles of the inner thigh are stretched beyond their limits. A soccer player can pull their groin when kicking a ball and/or being met with resistance by an opponent who attempts to kick the ball in another direction.

Hamstring Injury

Hamstring injuries involve the three back muscles of the thigh and can range from a minor strain to a total rupture. The continuous running, sprinting, and stopping movements in soccer can lead to hamstring injuries.

Iliotibial Band Syndrome

This is an overuse injury involving a tendon called the IT band, the connective tissue along the outside of the thigh. Continuous running during soccer can create friction as the IT band is pulled along the outside of the knee, which may cause tendonitis.

Plantar Fasciitis

This common culprit of foot pain is caused by inflammation of the band of tissue that runs from the heel to the toes. There are a number of factors that may cause plantar fasciitis among soccer players such as playing in inappropriate footwear without good arch support or playing on hard surfaces.

Pulled Calf Muscle

This injury occurs when one of the muscles of the lower leg (either the gastrocnemius or the soleus) is pulled from the Achilles tendon. Spontaneous running or jumping is often a cause.

Runner's Knee

Patellofemoral pain syndrome, often called runner's knee, is a condition in which the cartilage under the kneecap is damaged due to injury or overuse. It can occur when there is misalignment in the knee or strained tendons.

Shin Splints

The term "shin splints" describes a variety of painful symptoms that develop in the front of the lower leg, often when training has been intensified or changed. Some soccer players may develop shin splints from training in inappropriate footwear instead of cleats.

Stress Fractures

Stress fractures are often the result of overuse or repeated impacts on a bone, particularly among soccer players. The result is severe bruising or a slight cracking in the bone.

Tendonitis

When a tendon is inflamed it is referred to as tendonitis. It generally is associated with overuse, but can also be developed when a traumatic injury creates micro tears in the muscle fibers.

Preventing Soccer Injuries

Many injuries on the soccer field are the direct result of overuse, overtraining, poor conditioning, or the lack of a proper warm-up. Follow these tips to help reduce the risk of a soccer injury.

  • Warm up for at least 30 minutes prior to play, paying special attention to stretching the groins, hips, hamstrings, Achilles tendons, and quadriceps.
  • Wear protective gear, including mouth guards, shin guards, eye protection, and knee and elbow pads. Ensure they are properly sized and maintained.
  • Check the playing field for anything that could possibly cause an injury, including holes, puddles, broken glass, stones, or debris.
  • Avoid playing during inclement weather or immediately after a drenching rain when the field will be especially slick and muddy.
  • Give yourself time to heal after an injury, even a relatively minor one. Rushing back too soon increases the risk of re-injury.

A Word From Verywell

Whether you're an elite soccer player, part of a league, or simply enjoy the sport as exercise, be sure to pay attention to your body and acknowledge any signs of injury that may arise. Treat your joints with respect, especially if you have tendonitis or other repetitive use injuries. If you have a flare-up, don't rely on painkillers to help you push through. It is better to sit out a game or two and avoid exacerbating your injury.

Was this page helpful?
Article Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Kilic O, Kemler E, Gouttebarge V. The "sequence of prevention" for musculoskeletal injuries among adult recreational footballers: A systematic review of the scientific literature. Phys Ther Sport. 2018;32:308-322. doi:10.1016/j.ptsp.2018.01.007

  2. Lingsma H, Maas A. Heading in soccer: More than a subconcussive event?. Neurology. 2017;88(9):822-823. doi:10.1212/WNL.0000000000003679

  3. Pfirrmann D, Herbst M, Ingelfinger P, Simon P, Tug S. Analysis of Injury Incidences in Male Professional Adult and Elite Youth Soccer Players: A Systematic Review. J Athl Train. 2016;51(5):410–424. doi:10.4085/1062-6050-51.6.03