Background: The injury rate in soccer is high, and studies have shown that the injury rate among players aged 16 years or older approaches that of adult players. However, little is known about the injury risk among the youngest players, that is, players between 6 and 12 years.
Purpose: To examine the risk of injuries in children 6 to 16 years old playing organized soccer.
Study design: Descriptive epidemiological study.
Methods: Injuries were recorded prospectively throughout 1 season among 121 soccer teams (1879 players, aged 6-16 years) from 2 communities in the southeastern part of Norway.
Results: A total of 159 players sustained 200 injuries, corresponding to an overall injury incidence of 2.2 per 1000 playing hours (95% confidence interval, 1.8-2.6) among boys and 2.0 injuries per 1000 hours (95% confidence interval, 1.4-2.5) among girls. The overall injury incidence was significantly higher (relative risk, 1.7; 95% confidence interval, 1.3-2.2) among older players (13-16 years; 2.6 injuries per 1000 hours, 95% confidence interval, 2.2-3.0) than among younger players (6-12 years; 1.6 injuries per 1000 hours, 95% confidence interval, 1.2-1.9). The injuries recorded in the youngest group were few and mainly mild.
Conclusion: The injury risk among young players (6-12 years) playing organized 5- or 7-a-side soccer is low, lower than that of adolescents and much lower than at the elite level. Soccer is a safe sport for children.