Risk of injury high among young goalies using adult sized soccer balls

November 28, 2001

Eager young goalies run a significant risk of injury, trying to make 'a save,' when using an adult sized ball?a practice that is all too common?finds research in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.

There are an estimated 200 million soccer/football players worldwide. In England and Wales 2.25 million players are registered with the Football Association. Of these, 750,000 are youth players, and an additional large but unknown number of children and young adults play informally throughout the year.

All children and young adults attending a fracture clinic in one hospital were monitored for 17 months. Those who had been injured while playing football, and who had sustained a wrist or hand fracture, were asked how the injury had occurred.

Among the 1920 new patients seen at the clinic, 29 wrist fractures were seen in 28 goalies who had been trying to "make a save." One of the goalies had fractured both wrists on separate occasions.

The average age of the injured players was just under 11 years. Most injuries occurred during the summer months, and on grass. Two thirds were sustained during informal play. In almost three quarters of incidents, an adult (size 5) ball had been in play. A junior size ball (size 4) was involved in a further 14 per cent of incidents. In 26 cases a plaster cast for around three weeks successfully treated the fracture, but three fractures required additional manipulation under anaesthetic.

An adult size 5 soccer ball weighs up to 450 g, and can be kicked at speeds of up to 25 m/second. The impact from a stitched ball, particularly when wet, is greater than that from a moulded ball. And goalkeepers are especially vulnerable to impact injury as they repeatedly take the full force of the ball on their hands.

The Football Association made recommendations on the use of appropriately sized soccer balls for young players in 1993, advising a size 4 ball for 8 to 11 year olds, and a size 3 for younger children. But these recommendations do not seem to be widely followed, say the authors.
[Distal radial fractures in young goalkeepers: a case for an appropriately sized soccer ball 2001; 35: 409]

BMJ Specialty Journals

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