How Dangerous is Soccer? (6 Dangers/Risks to Watch Out For!)

is soccer dangerous

Soccer is probably the most exciting sport there is! However, it could hold many risks and even dangers for the players regardless of the position they play in …

… That’s why, recognizing those dangers and having the necessary awareness to deal with that is really important!

So, Is soccer dangerous?

Yes, soccer could be somewhat dangerous. It is actually perceived by many as a contact sport. Like any other contact sport, injuries will happen.

Regardless of what level of play, all soccer matches come with risks like injuries that players need to watch out for.

Important Side Note: If you are a soccer beginner or amateur and would like to improve your soccer skills, then I strongly recommend to use soccer shoes with decent Quality  and reliable Grip to perform at the best of your abilities. You can have a quick look at these quality soccer cleats to get an idea!

What is the most dangerous position in soccer?

Is it not obvious what is the most dangerous position? The goalkeeper of course.

No other player on the field is in direct contact like the goalkeeper. High speed soccer balls come flying at them multiple times through a match. If being hit by the ball does not cause an injury, the sudden impact from landing on the ground after a save might.

Goalkeepers are unique players that have more potential to get hurt than other players on the field.

The next dangerous position is any position in the defense. Offensive players, particularly shooters, are aggressive. They have to be in order to get into position or keep control of the ball.

Shooters are more likely to hit with an elbow or stomp on a foot when trying to keep possession of the ball, and either one could or could not be intentional.

Midfielders on either side could land down on the opposing team after jumping to receive the ball.

Goalkeepers and defensive players have the most dangerous positions on the field.

Funny enough, many soccer players like to fake injuries as a way to prevent being injured in first place. You can learn more about why some soccer players are dramatic and fake injuries!

What are the risks of playing soccer?

Here are a few risks you should be mindful of before you pick up the sport, or meet up for a pickup game.

1. Injuries … How common are they and what’s the most common one?

Injuries will occur on the field. The majority of the injuries happen to the lower limbs according to the NCAA. More than 65% of soccer injuries are in the lower limb area, with the upper leg area and torso/pelvis region making up another significant percentage.

The study by the NCAA found the overall injury rate in NCAA men’s soccer is 7.7 per 1,000 athlete exposures. Soccer players are three times more likely to be injured during a game versus practice.

Soccer players are uniquely susceptible to muscle strains and ligament sprains caused by sudden directional changes. Imagine all the quick cuts a player will make dribbling down field.

Factor in headers from midfielders or dives from goalkeepers and the injuries from the knee down make sense.

The three main injuries are:

  1. Muscle Strains (25.8%)
  2.  Ligament Sprains (25.3%)
  3. Concussions (5.5%)

The possibility of being injured is slim in a game, and even slimmer in practice. These numbers do not mean soccer is completely safe, it just means on a large scale the possibility of being injured is not high.

2. Tackling could be risky at times …

Tackling is effective when done correctly. Any player capable of executing a tackle is dangerous on the field. No one ever expects a tackle. Mostly because players get injured often when a tackle occurs.

Dropping down low to the ground to essentially kick the ball away could cause injury to the player hitting the ground. Next, without proper timing, a player could be kicking the opponent in the shin and not the ball.

What happens when the ball is not kicked?

The opponent usually trips and can either hurt their knees or hands, sometimes both. Or worse, land on the tackler.

Following all this is usually a card. The risk to reward is never worth it for inexperienced players.

Tackling is a risky maneuver because at best the ball is stolen and at worse someone is getting hurt.

3. Is soccer bad for your knees?

Considering more than half of all injuries are lower limb injuries it is easy to conclude soccer could be bad for your knees.

You could walk down the street, trip, and hurt your knee. However, in soccer you will be warming up before any activity which gives your knee the protection it needs to prevent injuries.

Running, jumping, stopping are all a part of being an athlete. As long as you do all you can to warm up and prevent injury, then your knees will be fine.

A freak accident on the field is the only way soccer could be bad for your knees.

On a side note, keep in mind that people who have flat feet are more vulnerable to injuries. You can learn How you should play soccer with flat feet! This will help you avoid injuries …

4. Heading in soccer – is it Dangerous?

Heading in soccer ranks fifth as the most common activity at the time of injury during competition and ninth during practice.

What this means is headers are not as dangerous as you might think.

Performing a header with the front of your face is obviously not safe. An accidental header is also not safe.

Instead, practicing how to properly perform a header is absolutely safe. When it comes time to using a header in a match, you will reduce the potential injury that could happen.

The most common injury associated with headers is bruising. Concussions are the most fatal. Which is why practicing proper technique is so important with headers.

5. Do soccer players get brain damage?

A study funded by The Drake Foundation found retired footballer’s brains exceeded the 12% average background rate of CTE found in a previous survey of 268 brains of an unselected population at the Queen Square Brain bank.

The ex-footballers all began playing soccer from a young age, or early teens, and had been doing headers from there throughout the rest of their soccer career – average of 26 years.

From the study, you could conclude that over the course of 20+ years of professional play caused CTE.

The average soccer player will not be playing on a professional level, nor does every professional player perform headers constantly.

Does soccer cause brain damage? Yes.

Is this something the average player should be worried about? Kind of.

They should be aware of the danger, but not afraid to play.

6. Weather risks

So far the emphasis has been on injuries and the risks they pose to soccer players. Weather is another major risk. Indoor soccer players do not have to worry about this risk as much.

Most soccer players are outdoors though.

Extreme heat or cold have their own set of risks. Heat illness ranked in the top 20 most common injuries in NCAA soccer. Although, heat illness is preventable.

But what about the cold?

Matches still continue through cold weather. Rainy weather as well. In these scenarios risks of slipping are more common. A sudden slip can strain or sprain a body part. Being unable to maintain body heat is another risk that should not be taken lightly.

How can you be safer and prevent injuries in soccer?

A good warmup is the best way to prevent muscle strains and tears. Considering most injuries are related to these two issues, having a plan for warming up is ideal.

Start with 20 minutes of cardio followed by a stretching routine. Don’t play until you know for sure you are warmed up. Taking a few extra minutes to get prepared is more important than jumping into a game immediately.

To add onto this, you’ll want the right equipment as well.

This means wearing all your PPE correctly. Fitted to you. Nothing missing or loose. A mouthguard, shin guards, and the right cleats that fit you tight.

Above all else, be aware of your surroundings. If going for a header, know where you are landing. When fighting over possession be mindful limbs – yours and your opponents!

Practice as many drills as possible and as often as possible. Soccer requires quick changes in direction. Without the proper practice you will more than likely injure yourself when trying to replicate drills into a real game. Most injuries occur because players stress their body beyond its capability.

Keep these in mind:

  • Warmup properly.
  • Wear the correct PPE.
  • Have field awareness.
  • Practice drills often.

Doing these four will not prevent every injury. Instead, they will reduce the chance of you getting hurt out on the field.

Also, dress for the weather and stay hydrated.

Soccer vs other Sports …

How does soccer compare to other sports in regards to how dangerous the sport is?

Baseball has a lower injury rate at 3.61 injuries out of 1,000 athlete exposures. This does not make it safer since there are more fatal injuries. Baseball has the highest fatality rate for children ranging from 5 to 14 years old – 3 to 4 kids die each year with brain damage the most common cause.

American Football has an injury rate of 8.1 injuries per 1,000 athletes exposed. Injuries are similar in both sports – 50% or more lower limb injuries being the majority. You have a higher chance of concussion, 7.4% versus 5.5%, playing football than soccer.

Even worse, American football has more life altering injuries than other sports. Catastrophic spinal cord injuries occur in football, which is something foreign to soccer players.

Is death a possibility?

Referring back to the NCAA study, over the course of their findings no one died from a contact injury. Six players died from over exertion though. According to the NCAA, roughly 1 in 40,000 student-athletes per year will experience sudden cardiac death. Sudden cardiac death is the leading medical cause of sudden death.

Death is a possibility, and the only way found is through over exertion, which happens to be preventable if proper measures are taken. Underlying health factors play a role, but a healthy student that is pushed too far will result in death.

This can be said for any level of play. Over exertion can kill. Other than that, soccer is a relatively safe sport.

Final Thoughts …

I’ve been playing and watching soccer for decades, so it is not in my interest to scare you from this sport! This is 100% the opposite …

… Indeed, my main goal is to help you build your awareness of the risks that come with soccer (Any sports comes with its own risks) so you will learn how to play it safely and with minimum impact!

Claressa Cormier

Claressa Cormier has over 15 years of soccer experience between playing the sport at a semi-professional level, following the biggest soccer teams & leagues out there as well as helping beginners to get started on the right foot.

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