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Reminders for Soccer Athletes Playing Under Pressure By:

John Gallucci, Jr., MS, ATC, DPT, President JAG Physical Therapy, MLS Medical Coordinator

1.) Start your day off with a well-balanced meal. Tournament days can be long days. Fuel your body with the appropriate nutrients (carbohydrates, proteins, good fats) so it can sustain the stressors placed upon it throughout the day!

2.) Complete a proper warm-up and cool- down. Be sure to run through a proper warm-up and cool-down of dynamic and static stretches, as well as plyometrics, before and after playing each game. These routines can help prevent injuries during the game and will prepare the body for the next game.

3.) Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate. Our bodies crave water! This becomes especially true during periods of high intensity activity or extended heat exposure.  In order for our bodies to function at high levels for extended periods of time, we need to start the day off well hydrated and continue to replenish fluids throughout the day as we lose them.

4.) Be prepared. Check the weather report and pack sunscreen, umbrellas or a change or clothes.  Pack extra snacks for a quick bite on- the- go.  Check the tournament schedule and plan accordingly. Of course there are always unforeseen events that can take place, but being prepared for the day ahead leaves a smaller chance for mishaps and added stressors.

5.) HAVE FUN! The most important thing to remember is that sports are supposed to be fun and winning the game, or scoring the most goals, shouldn’t be the only goal! Lacing up those cleats, getting some exercise and building team camaraderie should be considered a win in anybody’s book.



Osgood-Schlatter’s DiseaseBy: John Gallucci, Jr., MS, ATC, DPT, President JAG Physical Therapy, MLS Medical Coordinator

GROWING PAINS! This is one of those catch-all terms uttered by parents when their pre-teen or teen athletes start to complain of pain in their joints. These words lead to one or many conversations involving statements like “just ice it”, “stretch and you will feel better” or “don’t worry, it will get better as you get older”. Although these statements have some truth to them, let’s make sure we- as parents and coaches- are doing all we can to keep our athletes healthy on and off the field during their growth spurt years. When discussing growth spurts or growing pains in athletes that are involved in sports which require extensive running and jumping or quick changes of direction such as soccer, I believe it is important to bring up Osgood-Schlatter Disease, or OSD. OSD is one of the most common causes of adolescent knee pain and although recently has been seen in the female population, is still much more prevalent in the male population between the ages of 10-16.  This condition is characterized by inflammation of the area where the tendon from the kneecap attaches to the shinbone and is typically the diagnosis when pain and/ or a bump is felt at the very top of the shinbone. This discomfort is due to the fast rate that the bones grow at during a growth spurt, leading to the much slower growing tendons and muscles to pull on the bones and cause irritation. As a healthcare professional, I am a strong advocate for getting today’s youth involved in sports and other physical activities. With that being said though, it should be noted that the physically active, adolescent male population experiences a high volume of this condition due to the added stressors placed on the body during running, jumping and cutting and as a result of overuse of the not fully evolved structures surrounding a joint. This last statement was not meant to scare our youth away from playing sports, but should be seen as an eye opener to learn how to prevent injury, treat the injury and rest appropriately. A successful approach, when trying to prevent or treat OSD, should consist of three basic principles: a proper warm-up, a balanced work to rest ratio and a healthy diet. During a growth spurt the muscles, tendons and ligaments surrounding a joint lose some of their elasticity due to the rapidly growing bones pulling in all directions. A proper warm up of static and dynamic stretches for the lower body, specifically the quadriceps and hamstring muscle groups, are a great way to ready the muscles, tendons and ligaments for the potentially damaging forces that will be placed on them during activity. If you or the athlete are unsure of how to implement a proper warm up consult with a healthcare professional such as a physical therapist or certified athletic trainer who specialize in these areas and will give be able to give proper guidance. There are also plenty of programs out there, like the L.E.S.S. Program offered at JAG Physical Therapy, which teach the athlete how to properly stretch and strengthen the lower extremity and will aid in injury prevention. It is important for people of all ages to maintain a healthy, well-rounded diet but becomes especially important when dealing with a growing body.  A well balanced diet of carbohydrates, fats and proteins along with drinking plenty of water will give the body and its structures the nutrients it needs to keep the body functioning properly during activity and the resources it needs to repair following activity and recover following injury. Finally, and maybe most importantly, let the active body rest when needed. Doing “too much, too soon” is the leading cause of musculoskeletal injuries especially when coupled with no time to rest. After a strenuous workout session or a long season be sure to leave time in between the next session or sport season to let the body recover back to a healthy state. Asking the body to repetitively perform under an exhausted state is when injuries occur most often.  Remember to encourage your athlete’s to listen to their bodies and to speak up when they are hurting. Early intervention, in cases such as Osgood-Schlatter’s Disease, is the key to success!

 “Back Injuries in Soccer”By: John Gallucci, Jr., MS, ATC, DPT, President JAG Physical Therapy, MLS Medical Coordinator 

Tightness, fatigue, pain and weakness in the low back are symptoms that I have heard all too often throughout the soccer community.  “I tried to loosen my back, but as I played the tightness and pain became worse and I had to stop playing.”  If you are a recreational player, high school or college player, weekend warrior or professional athlete, low back pain is a constant occurrence amongst players.  As in many running athletes, your back becomes tight due to repetition, poor warm up, poor stretching and poor strengthening techniques.   When dealing with back injuries in soccer, one of the first things we need to learn is common sense.  Soccer is a running, jumping, cutting, sprinting and kicking sport, and if you are not prepared for its demands you will sustain an injury.  The low back muscles will usually begin to get tight as a result of tightness in the hamstring, gluteus and IT band, which is common in all running athletes.  As soon as one of these structures tightens, your pelvis becomes immobile, which causes your par spinal muscles to work harder for the demand of the sport of soccer.  Then, with tightness in your muscles you rotate and kick the ball across the field and the pain becomes unbearable and you feel as if you will drop to the floor.Some easy, common sense concepts go a long way.  First, as with all running athletes you need to participate in a full body flexibility program.  Before practice or games I recommend a warm up of at least 10 minutes or when you begin to perspire.  At this point you should stretch the large group muscles for 3 repetitions for 10 to 15 seconds each.  Make sure to focus on hamstring, low back and gluteus stretches.  Participate in your game or practice, followed by a cool down and then stretch again.  At this point you should hold your stretches for at least 25-30 seconds.  On your days off you should warm up at least 1 time daily followed by stretching.  This will maintain good flexibility which will ultimately decrease injuries.  If you participate regularly in sports it is also recommended to maintain a good strengthening program pre and post season.  While you are in season, soccer athletes should be on a strengthening maintenance program at least 3 times a week.  Your strengthening program should include a good core development program designed for the soccer athlete which will insure good biomechanical posture control.  Good postural control will keep the pelvis in a neutral position which will decrease low back symptoms in the soccer player.  It is also recommended, as with all athletes, to keep the body hydrated efficiently with water or sports drinks.  A muscle becomes fatigued more quickly if it is not hydrated and therefore, can go into spasm much easier.In summary, to maintain a healthy back while playing soccer it is important to maintain flexibility throughout the gluteus, hamstrings, IT band and back, condition for the demands of the sport of soccer and maintain hydration. Best in health, John Gallucci Jr., MS, ATC, DPTMedical Coordinator, Major League SoccerPresident, JAG Physical Therapy