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Preventing Injuries

March 03, 1997|VICTOR MERINA

What was once a seasonal sport has become a year-round endeavor for many athletes. And that has increased the opportunity for soccer-related injuries. How do you help prevent them?

"Injuries can happen to even the most finely tuned athlete," says George Kuntz, who has coached both men's and women's college teams and is director of coaching for California Youth Soccer Assn. South. "Weight training and conditioning all year long have proved to be helpful to players."

Weight training, which experts say is often overlooked by female players, can strengthen leg muscles, including quadriceps and hamstrings, and help minimize the risk of major knee injuries. Proper conditioning can also help reduce such common ailments as muscular strains and ankle sprains.

According to experts, the chance of stress fractures--which can occur in soccer players, particularly among females--can be lessened through good nutrition and a proper balance of exercise and rest.

Among other suggestions to prevent injuries:

* Wear protective gear such as shinguards and select comfortable soccer shoes with adequate-width.

* Warm up properly by stretching for at least 15 minutes, and cool down afterward by stretching again.

* Drink plenty of water to help prevent muscle cramps and dehydration.

* If you have a history of ankle problems, wear a protective brace.

* Make sure that goal posts are safe and that field conditions are sound.

* Work on the proper kicking technique and soccer skills.

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