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12 Disadvantages and Risks of Playing Soccer (aka Football)

Soccer is the most popular sport in most of the world, and it’s even becoming more popular in the United States. And it makes sense ‒ there are a lot of positives and benefits to soccer when compared to other sports. 

There are also some disadvantages and risks associated with the sport though. In this article will discuss those risks and talk about what you can do to mitigate or prevent them. 

These are 12 disadvantages and risks of playing soccer. 

1. U.S. soccer has less collegiate and professional opportunities

Many teenagers in the United States choose to play sports with the hope of earning a college scholarship. Some even harbor dreams of playing professionally. 

It can be tougher to succeed in this regard if you choose to play soccer instead of more “American” sports like football, basketball, or baseball. While most colleges do have soccer teams, they typically invest fewer resources into those teams than they do into more popular sports. 

Professional opportunities for American soccer players are also quite limited when compared to other sports. The professional soccer league in America, the MLS, has much lower salaries and overall public interest than football, basketball, and baseball. And unfortunately, American training programs don’t seem to produce athletes good enough to compete in the higher-paying international leagues. 

2. You need to be in great shape

Playing an entire soccer game is hard work. It’s 90 minutes of almost nonstop action, and most of those 90 minutes are spent either jogging or running at a full sprint. A high level of cardiovascular fitness is essential to be able to compete in soccer at any kind of competitive level. 

If you don’t care to play too competitively, then soccer can be a great way to get in shape. Just know that you’ll be doing a lot of jogging and sprinting when you sign up for a team. 

3. Cleats can get expensive

Soccer is typically seen as an inexpensive sport. However, this characterization isn’t necessarily true when it comes to footwear. Soccer cleats can easily enter the three-figure cost range, especially if you want the brands and models worn by professionals. 

On the plus side, you don’t need to shell out a bunch of money to get a decent pair of cleats. It can be beneficial if you’re looking to perform at the very top of your game, but most lower-priced cleats will do the job just fine. 

4. You need a soccer field to play

Even though you can technically play soccer with nothing more than a ball, a full-length field with painted lines and expensive goals is required for proper play. Access to these fields can be limited, especially if you live in a populated area. 

The best way to gain access to a field is often to join a team ‒ but unless you’re involved in a high school or college program, or a league this can also come with additional costs. 

5. Concussions

While soccer is known for being much safer than full-contact sports like American football or hockey, there is still a significant risk of injury. And one of the most common injuries on the soccer field is a concussion. 

A common cause of concussion is a collision between two players. This is more likely to happen at higher levels of play, as players will be jumping and moving at higher speeds. Pro players also tend to care more about winning, so they are prone to making dangerous plays that recreational players might avoid. 

6. Ankle sprains

Ankle sprains are a risk in any sport, but soccer’s focus on the lower extremities heightens the risk of this painful injury. Most ankle sprains on the soccer field are caused by an abrupt twisting of the body while keeping the ankle in place. This is something that most often happens during set pieces, though they can realistically occur at any point during a soccer game. 

Ankle sprains take at least six weeks to heal ‒ and your mobility will be severely limited throughout that process ‒ so parents who are concerned about this kind of injury might want to choose another sport for their child

7. Knee sprains

Knee sprains are another relatively common injury on the soccer field. These occur when the tone of the ligaments that connect your upper and lower legs become stretched or torn. This is a painful injury that severely limits your ability to move. 

There are three different levels of severity, ranging from Grade I (mild) to Grade III (severe). Rehabilitation from a Grade III strain can take as long as a year, so players should stretch and perform exercises that strengthen the muscles around their knee to decrease their chances of a knee sprain. 

8. Calf strains

A calf strain, also called a pulled calf, occurs when the muscles in your calf tear. This is a common injury in people who run long distances at intense paces, so soccer players definitely qualify as at-risk individuals. 

A mild calf strain will be a bit painful, and walking will be slightly uncomfortable. A severe strain will be extremely painful, and you will be unable to walk for up to six weeks. 

9. Foot fractures

While sprains and strains are troublesome, their significance pales in comparison to some of the fractures that are possible with soccer

One of the most frequent fractures soccer players can sustain is the foot fracture. This kind of fracture can be broken up into several specific types:

  • Toe fractures
  • Metatarsal fractures (middle of the foot)
  • Sesamoid fractures (small bones at the base of the big toe)
  • Heel fractures

It’s relatively common because of the numerous ways players can get them:

  • Players slide tackling incorrectly
  • One player stepping on the foot of another player
  • Kicking the ball incorrectly
  • Slide tackling or kicking the goal post 

Aside from concussions ‒ which can have lifelong repercussions ‒ the potential for a foot fracture is one of the worst disadvantages of playing soccer. They are extremely painful, and the pain is made worse by walking or putting weight on the foot. The healing process is also long, and you’ll usually need to wear a splint or boot for a significant amount of time. 

10. Clavicle fractures

A soccer-related fracture is more likely to be in the foot than anywhere else ‒ but the intense pain and difficult healing process of a clavicle fracture might just make them a scarier prospect. And that isn’t to say clavicle fractures are particularly rare ‒ 5 percent of adult fractures are clavicle-related, and this number only increases in children and young adults. 

Although clavicle fractures can occur in a number of ways, they are most commonly caused by a forceful fall with the arm at the side. This method of injury happens surprisingly often in soccer, and can occur in any of the following situations:

  • When 2 or more players jump up for a header
  • When a player and a goalie jump to contest a ball
  • When a crowded wall of players jostles before a free-kick
  • When a group of attackers forcefully jump to head a ball from a corner kick
  • When two players are running side-by-side and aggressively fighting for control of the ball
  • When a player get slide tackled or pushed and loses their balance

All clavicle fractures are painful and require a long recovery. However, unlike foot fractures, there is also a risk for serious injury ‒ a broken clavicle can puncture lungs or arteries and require immediate treatment. 

11. Wrist fractures

Rounding out the list of potential fractures from playing soccer is the wrist fracture. A wrist fracture occurs when one of the eight bones in the wrist or one of the two forearm bones experiences a break. 

Wrist fractures are most commonly caused by falling on an outstretched hand, which is something that happens quite often in competitive soccer games. The same types of falls that place a player at risk of a clavicle fracture also place the player at risk of a wrist fracture ‒ it just depends on the way they fall and the body parts they end up putting weight on. 

While a wrist fracture might seem like a less serious injury for a soccer player than a foot fracture, they are still quite serious. If you suffer a wrist fracture, you’ll need to keep your wrist in a cast or splint for 1-3 months. They are also extremely painful, and the risk of getting one is yet another risk that playing soccer brings. 

12. Kneecap bursitis

Kneecap bursitis occurs when the bursa (a fluid-filled sac near your kneecap) becomes inflamed. This can be caused by a direct blow to the knee or a prolonged period of pressure caused by excessive running. Kneecap bursitis is less painful than sprains or fractures, but it can still limit your mobility and cause at least some pain.