​Knee injuries, concussions are top injuries in soccer

BC Soccer and Fortius Sport and Health are partnering with players to develop a better approach to injury prevention.

BC Soccer and an athlete development centre work with players to better prevent and treat injuries

Rick Celebrini is studying soccer injuries at Fortius Sport and Health (Jennifer Chen)

BC Soccer and Fortius Sport and Health are partnering with players to develop a better approach to injury prevention.

Some of the top players at the World Cup have been dealing with injuries and forced time off the field. For a few teams those injuries could mean the difference between winning and losing. 

Markus Reinkins,  the manager of soccer science and player development at BC Soccer, says knee injuries and concussions are the most serious. 

The fields next to Fortius Sport in Burnaby are equipped with cameras to track athlete movements. (Jennifer Chen)

Women, he says, are four to eight times more at risk of knee injury, because of the way their knees are structured.

"Concussions are definitely becoming more and more prevalent, whether that's that there are more concussions or that we're actually recognizing that there are more concussions based on education and advice," he says.

Rick Celebrini is the co-founder of Fortius Sport and Health, an athlete development centre that works with BC Soccer. He is also the head of medicine and sport science for the Whitecaps Football Club.

There isn't really any other sport where you are heading the ball, he says, and a lot of work is being done to understand what happens when the head repeatedly comes into contact with the ball.

Rick has conducted research into injuries and he says it's now scientifically proven that most injuries are preventable.

"The community at large —  parents, coaches, players, especially either aren't aware of it, or if they're aware of it, there's a sort of non-compliance, or an 'it's not going to happen to me' type attitude."

"And that's a frustration from a medical perspective when you see one of these kids or an older adult come in with an injury and a lot of times it could have been prevented." 

There will be unavoidable collisions, but other injuries are simply about better education and training.

Safety training for national coaches

Now, national coaches must take an on-line training module to teach them how to recognize a concussion and seek help if needed. 

Another prevention tool is the FIFA 11 Plus. It's a neuro-muscular strengthening program that consists of 10 strengthening and stretching exercises.

The 11th element, says Markus, is fair play.

"Trying to reduce reckless tackles or injuries with intent, to wipe that out. So fair play is seen as a big step in terms of reducing injuries in terms of collisions."

Fortius Sport is using technology to help treat injuries and make sure athletes are properly rehabilitated so they don't get re-injured. The field next door is equipped with cameras so they can capture and track movements and computers enable therapists to recreate in 3-D what happens to an athlete during an injury.

Markus says B.C. is also the only province to have visual screening test to help with rehabilitation and training.

Finally, Rick says, the athlete's own body awareness has a lot to do with staying injury-free. Children as young as nine years old should be taking responsibility for their own health, he says.

To help educate youth, Fortius Sport is piloting a physical literacy program.

"Teaching them how to move properly and teaching them the basics: proper sleep and recognizing fatigue and injury prevention strategies. So really getting them at the early years, in the formative years so they have a good awareness, so as they grow up they are advocates for their own health."

BC Soccer and Fortius Sport continue to research and understand injury so they can help players stay healthy.

Whether it's working more closely with young players to identify preexisting conditions, or studying the way shoes strike the turf surface, the work by sports scientists in the province is aimed at keeping soccer players on the field.