Soccer, commonly known outside the United States as football, is played between two teams of 11 players each. Soccer is a ball game played on a rectangular grass or artificial field, with a goal at each end of the field. Players attempt to score points by maneuvering the ball into the opposing goal. Only the goalkeepers or goalies are permitted to touch the ball with hands or arms, all other players must use their feet, occasionally their knees or in some cases, their heads. The team scoring the most points by the end of play is the winner. Extra time is allotted should the two teams reach a tie at the game’s end.
If you're looking to improve your soccer game or just seeking to prevent soccer injuries it is important to follow the information in this article. In addition, adding a few simple stretches to your fitness program will also help. To get started on a safe and effective stretching routine that's just right for you, check out the Ultimate Guide to Stretching & Flexibility.
The origins of soccer are unknown, though similar sports involving the kicking of a ball clearly have ancient roots in many parts of the world. Some have suggested the earliest clear evidence for a soccer-like game points to China of the 2nd and 3rd centuries B.C. A Roman game known as harpastum appears likewise related to soccer, (though it was played with a smaller ball, more closely resembling a softball). Differing forms of sport resembling soccer thrived in medieval Europe, though rules depended on locale and specific period.
Soccer - generally considered the most popular sport in the world - may owe its appeal to simplicity as well as the skill and cunning required in the fast-paced intrigue of the game. Played at a professional level all over the world as well as by serious amateur teams as well as for pure enjoyment, soccer is a regular pastime for over 240 million people in over 200 countries worldwide. The Soccer World Cup, held every four years, pits the top teams in the world against each other and draws enormous audiences for both the stadium games and television.
Rapid speed, agility and power are required in soccer. In addition to conditioning of the muscles of the legs, success in soccer requires upper body and core muscular training and exercise, particularly in the stomach and the back. This is essential both for the frequent sprinting bursts required of the game but also for stability and to keep the player from easily being knocked from the ball he is trying to maneuver.
Among the most important muscles in soccer (and most frequently injured) are the hamstrings. These muscles occur at the back of the thigh, above the knee and just below the buttock. Hamstrings assist in flexing the knee joint (aided by the gracilis and the sartorius muscles) and also work to extend the hip joint. Rotation of the lower leg when the knee is bent is also accomplished by hamstring muscles. Further, hamstrings act as to slow the body down and break or reverse direction after a run. Finally, hamstrings act to help keep the trunk properly aligned.
Hamstrings are actually a muscle group composed of the following:
Hamstring muscles all run past the knee joint and receive their blood supply from branches of the deep femoral artery.
Most Common Soccer Injuries
Soccer injuries may be categorized as either cumulative (overuse) or acute (traumatic). Overuse injuries are frequently caused by excessive stress to muscles, joints and soft tissues over an extended period of time. Initial symptoms may include nagging ache or pain, but can progress to debilitating injury if not properly attended to, including allowing adequate healing time. Acute injuries by contrast usually involve sudden, sharp, in severe cases, excruciating pain. Most common injuries include:
Injury Prevention Strategies
Soccer injuries may often be the result of overuse, poor conditioning, lack of proper rest or insufficient warm-up. Overall, soccer players require specific, targeted exercises emphasizing strength, endurance, flexibility and range of motion. This is especially true in the case of injury-prone muscle groups, ligaments, tendons, etc. The hip adductor muscles, ankles, hamstrings, and knees are all areas requiring specialized exercise. Additionally, the following steps can reduce the likelihood of injury:
The Top 3 Soccer Stretches
Stretching is one of the most under-utilized techniques for improving athletic performance, preventing sports injury and properly rehabilitating sprain and strain injury. Don't make the mistake of thinking that something as simple as stretching won't be effective. Below are 3 very beneficial stretches for soccer; obviously there are a lot more, but these are a great place to start. Please make special note of the instructions beside each stretch.
|Kneeling Quad Stretch: Kneel on one foot and the other knee. If needed, hold on to something to keep your balance and then push your hips forward.|
|Sitting Single Leg Hamstring Stretch: Sit with one leg straight out in front and point your toes upwards. Bring your other foot towards your knee and reach towards your toes with both hands.|
|Squatting Leg-out Adductor Stretch: Stand with your feet wide apart. Keep one leg straight and your toes pointing forward while bending the other leg and turning your toes out to the side. Lower your groin towards the ground and rest your hands on your bent knee or the ground.|
While the recommendations on this page are a good starting point, you'll get a lot more benefit when you include a wider variety of exercises. So to improve your athletic ability, reduce injuries and really take advantage of all the stretching exercises on offer, grab a copy of the Ultimate Guide to Stretching & Flexibility (Handbook, DVD & CD-ROM).
In total, they include 135 clear photographs and 44 video demonstrations of unique stretching exercises for every major muscle group in your body. Plus, over 80 printable stretching routines for 22 sports and 19 different muscle groups.
The DVD also includes 3 customized stretching routines (8 minutes each) for the Upper Body; the Lower Body; and the Neck, Back & Core, plus a bonus CD-ROM that allows you to print out over 80 stretching routines that you can take with you where ever you go.
The Handbook and DVD will show you, step-by-step, how to perform each stretch correctly. Plus, you'll also learn the 7 critical rules for safe stretching; the benefits of flexibility; and how to stretch properly. Check out the Ultimate Guide to Stretching & Flexibility for yourself.