Your child's soccer coach
The most effective way to prevent sports injuries is to make sure your child is coached by a qualified person, preferably someone who is certified by the National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA).
- The NSCAA offers certification at different levels, even for coaches working with players 5 to 12 years old.
- At the very least, your child's coach should have some training in first aid and CPR.
- Your child's coach should have an emergency plan in case of a serious injury.
Your child's physical exam
Every child should have a sports-specific pre-season physical, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.
- The emphasis should be on quality, not quantity — once a year is enough if the physical is done properly.
- If your child's primary care doctor has no experience in this area (which is becoming increasingly rare as more and more primary care physicians are getting certified in sports medicine), then have the physical done by a sports doctor who has had some training by either the American College of Sports Medicine or the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine.
- If someone other than your family doctor performs the physical, send the report to your doctor so he or she is aware of any potential problems and has all applicable information in your child's records.
- The pre-season physical should ideally be performed three or four months before the season begins. This allows the physician to evaluate and correct any specific problems.
Your child's soccer gear
- Cleats - Make sure your child plays in a good pair of soccer cleats. Old, worn-out cleats are associated with certain injuries, especially if there is any wearing down in the back cleats of the shoes. Molded rubber 13-cleat shoes are fine for most natural grass surfaces in the United States, but if your climate is very wet or the turf where your child plays soccer is especially thick and lush, screw-in six-cleat shoes may provide better traction.
- Shin guards - Shin guards are a must and protect against both serious injuries to the bones of the lower leg and minor but painful bruises in this area.
- Mouthguards - Mouthguards are optional for soccer players, though they would help prevent the small number of concussions and dental injuries seen in soccer. However, because mouthguards interfere with verbal communication, it's unlikely they will ever be widely adopted in this sport where players constantly talk to one another during the course of play.
- Buy a soccer ball for your child that is size-appropriate for his or her age.