Soccer is a beautiful and emotional game with over 3 billion fans around the globe. We get all those statistics but why is it that nobody is talking about the dangers of the sport?
Like it or not, every contact sport is potentially dangerous — and soccer is not an exception. We see soccer players throw their bodies in front of a ball moving at over 150 km/h.
Soccer promotes desperation which robs some players of the power of logical reasoning. In a bid to score a goal or to prevent their opponent from scoring, some soccer players often use extreme force without proper thought of the potential harm to the opponent.
For example, in November 2019 during a premier league fixture between Tottenham and Everton, Tottenham forward Son Heung-min unleashed a terrible tackle on Everton’s Andre Gomes. Eventually, Gomes was stretched out of the pitch with a right ankle fracture and dislocation.
Although the Laws of the Game clearly state what a player can and cannot do, as tension mounts, players throw out a caution. Every professional soccer player has suffered one form of injury or the other during his or her professional career.
While professional soccer players make the game exciting with their incredible dribbling skills, the bad side of the game catches up with them sooner or later. Interestingly, injuries are not the only reason why soccer is bad for you.
Today, we are going to look at all the reasons why soccer is bad for you. Make sure you read through first if you are already planning to take up soccer as a professional career.
Why is soccer bad for you?
It is not a secret that soccer players are prone to foot injuries like ankle sprains, fractures, and bruises. The three most common injuries in soccer are ankle sprain, knee sprain, and calf sprain.
The chances of becoming injured are usually higher in street soccer where the laws are more relaxed and the playing environment is more hostile.
Apart from injuries that may occur from a clash with other players, self-inflicted injuries or overuse injuries such as shin splints and Achilles tendinitis are also common. Sadly, some soccer players never come out of injuries and are forced to retire early.
For example, during an England international game training, Dean Ashton received a terrible tackle from Shaun Wright-Phillips. Ashton failed to recover fully from the ankle injury he sustained from that tackle. This forced him to retire on 11 December 2009 at the age of 26.
To prove that Ashton wasn’t finished, he scored a sensational scissors kick goal during Mark Noble’s testimonial at Upton Park. The goal sent the spectators and commentators into a frenzy.
Just like Ashton, Stuart Holden, an American professional soccer player who made his mark in the midfield role was forced into retirement in February 2016 at the age of 30 as a result of recurring knee problems.
The sad ordeal began with cartilage damage and a fractured femur after Jonny Evans’ terrible tackle at Old Trafford. The list of soccer players that were forced into retirement due to one injury or another goes on and on.
Soccer can harm your mind and body in many ways and we will highlight all of them here as well as tell you how to prevent or minimize some of these injuries.
1. Brain damage
While soccer is mostly played with the feet, there are times when players rely on their heads to win the ball or score goals. A good example is when a team wins a corner kick.
Although heading is an important skill in soccer that players can use to maneuver through opponent defenders or goalkeepers, it can also lead to injuries. For example, soccer players frequently clash heads as they jump to contest for the ball.
During one of Chelsea’s clashes with Liverpool, David Luiz who had just returned to Chelsea contested the ball with Sadio Mane and ended up with a bloodied nose. In some instances, such collisions have led to concussions for one of the players.
Goalkeepers are usually more prone to concussion because players usually charge at them with full force. In 2017, Manchester City’s goalie Ederson was stretched out after he was hit with the stud by Sadio Mane. Petr Cech’s head injury in 2006 remains fresh in the minds of soccer lovers.
Some studies have shown that the continuous heading of fast-moving balls by soccer players can lead to brain damage. The chance of getting brain damage from heading the ball is even higher for younger soccer players.
Also, the rate of concussions has jumped from 1,589 in 1990 to 22,750 in 2014. It is not surprising that some soccer federations like the United States Soccer Federation (USSF) have banned the use of the head by soccer players below 10 years.
In 2017, a study revealed that 4 former soccer players had chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a progressive neurodegenerative disease resulting from repeated blows to the head. Dementia and Alzheimer’s in ex-soccer players are linked to repeated head injuries they nursed in their careers.
Soccer is one of the most emotional sports in the world. That is why you will often see soccer players cry when they lose important games.
Soccer players are not the only ones that feel the heat though. Soccer fans also get so tense that some of them turn their backs during certain moments in the game.
The higher the passion, the higher the chance of depression. Soccer can take a great toll on your mental health. There are so many instances that can cause a soccer player to become depressed.
As a young soccer player, you may work so hard and still not be discovered or signed by a big team. This can be frustrating and can take a toll on your mental health.
Nevertheless, it is not easier for professional soccer players too. As a professional soccer player, the pressure to keep winning is often high and fans often boo the team after successive losses or when they lose to an opponent the fans believe they should have won.
When it comes to harsh criticism from the fans, even the best soccer players are not spared. For example, in 2019 reports emerged that Neymar was trying to force a move back to Barcelona.
PSG fans were not happy with the player who missed the team’s first 5 games of the season. When he finally showed up, he was booed by the fans. Being booed by thousands of fans can cause even the toughest soccer player to become depressed.
Sadly, fans rarely think about the emotional consequences of their actions on soccer players. In fact, as a soccer player, nobody cares about your emotional wellbeing—and you can get a backlash for trying to speak up. The negative emotional impact of soccer is usually more among kids and teenagers.
3. Soccer can actually kill you
When we say soccer can actually kill you, we mean this in literal terms. More than once, we have seen soccer players fall on the pitch and never get up again.
In 2003, Cameroonian professional soccer player Marc-Vivien Foé slumped during a game with Colombia. All efforts to revive him failed and he was later pronounced dead.
Soccer demands a high work rate with players running an average of 7 to 10 miles per game. This puts a lot of pressure on the heart resulting in cardiac arrests on the pitch.
Christian Eriksen was lucky to have survived a cardiac arrest during a game between Denmark and Finland at the Euro 2020. However, many other players are not so lucky.
Although rare, some soccer players have been struck by lightning during a game or training. In 2020, a Russian teen was struck by lightning during training. Thankfully, he survived.
Soccer can also indirectly lead to your death. Since soccer is a passionate sport, a lot of the fans often do the unthinkable when they lose. They often pick out the player that they think was the cause of the defeat and eliminate him.
For example, during the 1994 World Cup, Colombia’s Andres Escobar scored an own goal during a round of 16 game between his country and the USA. Ten days later, he was killed.
The threat to the life of players seems to be on the rise as more fans engage in sports bets. Now, the anger of losing the game is compounded by the anger of losing so much money from bets.
4. Earns you enemies
Whether you win or lose in soccer, you will end up making enemies. Inasmuch as sportsmanship is encouraged in soccer, winning can earn you enemies among the players and fans of the opposite team.
The situation is even worse when you lose. Some soccer players have been forced into exile after losing a crucial tournament for fear of bodily harm from their new enemies.
After Sierra Leone’s early AFCON 2021 exit, fans marched to Kei Kamara’s (a striker) house to torch it because he missed a late penalty against Equatorial Guinea. It took the intervention of the police to stop that from happening. Again, many soccer players are not so lucky.
5. Disconnection from family
Soccer players often have to leave their home country and family behind and travel many kilometers to another country to play for the top leagues. In 2017, a UEFA report showed that 69.2% of premier league players are foreigners. That is a huge number!
With the high volume of matches played week-in, week-out, some soccer players get to see their families maybe once or twice a year. For those with kids, this can prevent proper bonding between the soccer player and their kids.
Due to numerous engagements, many soccer players have been absent in crucial events like the birth of their child or the death of a family member.
How can you make soccer safer?
For every reason on why soccer is bad for you, there are ten others why you should love the sport. Although soccer can be potentially dangerous, there are ways to make it safer for the players.
Think about it, if everyone dwelled on the bad side of the game, there wouldn’t be so many people scampering to play the game at the top level. You can minimize the risk of physical and mental injuries in soccer by adhering to some of the practices below.
- Maintain proper fitness both during the season and off-season
- Warm-up before every soccer game to reduce the chances of muscle injuries. According to studies, cold muscles are more injury-prone
- Stay hydrated during a game so that your body can cool itself effectively
- Use the right soccer gears like shin guards and helmets to prevent severe injuries and concussion
- Play soccer in a safe environment with the goalposts properly secured
- Watch the weather and don’t play when there is a thunderstorm threat to avoid being struck by lightning
- Make sure there is a first aider close by to attend to injured players
- Don’t over-push your workout. Start small and increase your regimen gradually
- Never be too eager to return to the pitch after an injury unless certified by your physician
- Visit a psychologist to reassess your mental health regularly
- Don’t take up penalty kicks if you cannot handle the pressure
Soccer is potentially dangerous. Anybody that tells you otherwise is simply setting you up for failure. However, you should also consider that no sport is entirely risk-free including non-contact sports.
Inasmuch as the negative sides of soccer can seem overwhelming, there are also good sides to the game. If the benefits of the game did not outweigh the cons, it wouldn’t have been the most famous sport in the world today.
As long as you stick to the instructions we highlighted, you can safely play the game without major incidents. Soccer is still a lot safer than other contact sports like boxing and UFC.
Hi there, I’m Jay.
Soccer is everything in my life! My friends and I have created this blog with all our enthusiasm, passion, and understanding after years of playing pro soccer. Hope you will enjoy it!