Injury Prevention in Youth Soccer

Elle Farajian, D.P.M. FACFAS

Published October 2018 in ACFAP Quarterly (American College of Foot and Ankle Pediatrics)

PDF of the ACFAP Quarterly

Soccer is the world’s most popular sport with more than 265 million amateur players registered with the Fédération Internationale de Football Association ( FIFA). The popularity of this contact sport has considerably increased amongst the American youth over the past two decades.

Soccer has been perceived as a safe sport to play but there are still an abundance of related injuries. Lower extremity injuries are the most common injuries for young players, specifically at the knee and the ankle.(1) Recent studies have focused on injury prevention programs geared towards youth soccer in an effort to lower health costs as well as for keeping children motivated and conditioned.(2)

There have been trends of children leaving the organized sport due to overuse injuries, many of which could have been avoided with preventive measures. Keeping kids injury-free and avoiding long-term disability reduces the drop-out rate from the sport, and as foot and ankle specialists we have a special place in providing information about those preventive measures.

Encouraging children to be active and to exercise is an important part of every office visit with the children and their parents. Special attention and understanding of their needs and goals is paramount. The patient’s adherence to the physician’s advice, as well as the role that their parents play, and the specific biomechanical issues involved all play an important role in the outcome of the recovery and the return to play.(3)

As foot and ankle specialists, it’s imperative to acquire a level of understanding of the available preventive measures in order to keep the child’s sports experience fun, and to avoid a long absence from their favorite sport. A conservative approach, such as special warm-up techniques, always yields positive results.

For instance, a youth soccer injury-prevention program called the “FIFA 11+ Kids Injury Prevention Program” has shown to reduce the overall injury risk in children’s Soccer by 48 % and severe injuries by 74%, as reported in British Journal of Sports Medicine. The “11+” was developed by a group of international experts from FIFA’s Medical Assessment and Research Centre (F-MARC), the Oslo Sports Trauma Research Center, and the Santa Monica Orthopedic and Sports Medicine Research Foundation.(2)

The program includes 15 minutes of specific exercises as well as the observance of fair play. The “11” program is focused on dynamic stability, power, core strength and various falling techniques. (2)

A recent Swiss study evaluated Swiss soccer teams with kids under the age of nine and under the age of thirteen over the course of one season. This study included randomly chosen teams which were assessed after their usual warm-ups, versus the FIFA 11+ warm-up program. The study further corroborated that the FIFA 11+ program was far more effective than traditional warm-ups in keeping children safe and injury-free.(5) After just four weeks of implementation, marked improvement in physical performance was observed, compared to traditional warm-ups.(2)(4)

Treating sports-related injuries for young players allows for a special doctor-patient relationship that can be very rewarding, with long-term benefits for the patients as well as their parents. Youth Soccer should be fun, safe, and injury-free!

More information about the 11+ Kids program is available here:


Dr. Elle Farajian is a Fellow of the American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons (ACFAS), Diplomate of American Board of foot and ankle surgery and in private practice in Huntington Beach, CA. She serves as the vice chief of The Surgery Department at the Huntington Beach Hospital.

1. Paterson A. Soccer injuries in Children.Pediatric Radiology.2009;39(12)1286-98.

2. Rapport L.Youth Soccer injury prevention program saves Health care costs.Medscape-Sept 07,2018.

3. Dutra T.Pertinent principles in managing Pediatric Sports Injuries.Podiatry Today.2017;30(6):68-69.

4. Pomares-Noguera c, Ayala F,Robles_Palazon F J,et al. Training effects of the FIFA 11 + kids on physical performance in Youth football Players.Front Pediatr. 2018:5;6:40.

Call Us Now