Injuries are one of the worst parts about playing soccer. It is a natural part of the game. Even when we are proactive, injuries happen. When they do, players and parents will often ask on how quickly they can get back on the field again.
If you have a cast, there are many instances where you will be allowed to play. But, consult with your doctor and league first. Several state and local associations rules ban casts altogether. In the absence of rules on casts, it will be up to the referee to determine if you are safe to play with others.
There are several considerations to keep in mind. Below I’ll discuss the most common injuries and the likelihood that you will be able to get back in the game.
Most Common Arm Injuries
Important: Seek a medical professional if you are experiencing pain. Diagnosis of injuries can be complicated and requires the expertise of a physician.
All soccer injuries are not created equal. Most serious injuries are lower extremity (ankle, knee, leg). With these types of injuries, you will likely be on the sideline for quite some time. Soccer is a high impact sport played mainly with the legs.
We will focus on upper extremity injuries or more commonly known as injuries from the hand to the shoulder. These are more common during matches of children under 15 years old. Some examples of these injuries include wrist sprains, wrist fractures, and shoulder dislocations. These injuries usually occur from falling onto an outstretched arm or player-to-player contact. Between 40-60% of all youth injuries were due to a contact with another player or object.
The most common fracture in soccer is the green stick or buckle fracture near the wrist. Fractures are more common among young players than older ones. This injury is treated with a short arm cast, meaning the cast is below the elbow. Healing usually last a month and training can resume after a week.
Wrist and hand injuries below the elbow are likely your best chance to get back to the game quickly. Casts around the elbow reduce range of motion dramatically.
Important to note, goalkeepers take a considerably longer amount of time than a field player because the use of arms is vital for the position.
To learn more about goalkeepers, click here.
If you are cleared by your physician, this is great news! However, there are a few more obstacles to jump before you are on the field.
Check with the state soccer association as well as the local organization. Several state associations including Texas and Wisconsin prohibit players with casts at practice and games. No exceptions.
In addition, the American Youth Soccer Organization (AYSO) does not allow players to participate in practice or games while wearing a cast or splint. If an official catch a player removing their splint or cast at the field or nearby, they will be disqualified.
While the National Federation of State High School Association allows players to compete with a cast. Here are the official rule says:
“Hard substance in its final form such as leather, rubber, plastic, plaster or fiberglass when worn on the hand, wrist, forearm or elbow unless covered on all exterior surfaces with no less than 1/2 inch thick, high-density, closed-cell polyurethane, or an alternate material of the same minimum thickness and similar physical properties to protect an injury as directed in writing by a licensed medical physician (M.D./D.O.). Such written direction shall be provided to the umpire prior to the start of the game.”
Some leagues don’t have rules on casts. In these instances, the referee makes the final determination. Usually a referee will inspect your cast prior to the game. A soft cast with soft padding is more likely to win over referees and others than a cast that is hard. A hard cast is viewed more like a weapon. Typical coverings include foam, bubble wrap, carpet, an elastic bandage or a t-shirt. Most refs require a doctor’s clearance before they allow you to play.
Furthermore, a good referee will discuss with a player on inappropriate movements. If the ref deems that you are putting other players in danger, they will remove you from the game. Any motion that looks remotely like you are swinging your cast will be viewed poorly. Be on your best behavior.
As a referee, their main concern to is to make sure the game is safe for the injured player and everyone else on the field. A hard cast can cause some serious damage among the other players. I’ve read some horror cases where players lost several adult teeth. This reflects poorly on the referees. Since refs are human and view the world a bit differently from one another, you could get two different answers in two games. You must respect their decision even if you don’t agree.
Ways to Reduce Injury
If you have ever experienced sitting on the sidelines, you know the feeling. Watching everyone else have fun while you tend to your injury. It stinks. As a player or parent of a player, we all want to be on the field. Here are several tips to use to reduce injury going forward:
- Avoid over training. Take breaks between seasons. Play other sports.
- Maintain proper hydration and nutrition. Dehydration can lead to many injuries.
- Keep fitness levels up throughout the season. Lack of stamina and endurance causes mistakes.
- During bad weather, check the playing surface to ensure grip.
- Do warm-ups for every training session and game. Cold muscles are more prone to injury.
- Wear proper equipment especially shin guards.
- Goal post collisions are the most dangerous. Padded goal post significantly reduce the severity of injuries.
While we discussed the options of playing, the most important aspect of playing is you. The risk of re-injury is higher since you aren’t fully healed. Players with a history of injury have an increased risk of a new injury. Re-injury can cause the recovery to last way longer than the original recovery or cause long-term damage.
If you play other sports, you could affect your ability to play those seasons as well. No one enjoys spending time on the sidelines. Take into account things might get worse before they better. While a few weeks can feel like an eternity, it is better than a potential career ending injury.