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Soccer | Healthy Sport Index | Aspen Institute Sports and Society Program

4th

out of 10

Soccer

Boys

Soccer is a sport that rewards footwork, stamina, leg strength, and teamwork, and requires a great amount of endurance, plus vision and balance. Recommended complementary/alternate sports for soccer players include tennis and track and field.

Rankings in orange circles compare this sport with nine other sports offered for this gender before customization – meaning each of the three health categories is given an equal one-third weighting. The ranking is comprised of data collected or developed from various sources (75% of score) and expert opinion (25% of score). The healthiest sports in each of the three categories – physical activity, safety and psychosocial benefits – and in each data measurement are ranked No. 1. Note: Some sports did not have significant differences between each other in the data. Learn more about our methodology.

5th

out of 10

Physical Activity

Expert Opinion Rank: 3rd Out of 10

Key Characteristics: Soccer physical activity at practices ranks fifth among the 10 boys sports studied by North Carolina State University. Soccer has 49.8 percent vigorous activity; the 10 boys sports average 48.5 percent. Soccer practice time focuses an equal amount on skills and fitness (27 percent each).

1 North Carolina State University research observing high school athletes in North Carolina, 2017-18.

7th

out of 10

Safety

18.3

Injury Rate2

(7th out of 10)

8%

Injury Time/Loss3

(4th out of 10)

0.03

Catastrophic Rate4

(T-3rd out of 10)

4.7%

Injuries Requiring Surgery5

(5th out of 10)

3.3

Concussion Rate6

(7th out of 10)

Expert Opinion Rank: 7th Out of 10

Key Characteristics: Soccer has one of the highest injury rates among boys sports, according to the National High School Sports-Related Injury Surveillance Study. The most common injuries are to the hip, thigh, upper leg, ankle and head/face. Despite a high injury rate relative to other sports, soccer players don’t miss a lot of time due to injuries.

2 Injury rate per 10,000 exposures, National High School Sports-Related Injury Surveillance Study, 2016-17.
3 Percentage of all injuries resulting in greater than three weeks of time loss from the sport, National High School Sports-Related Injury Surveillance Study, 2016-17.
4 Non-fatal catastrophic injury/illness rate per 100,000 exposures, National Center for Catastrophic Sport Injury Research, 1982-2016.
5 Percentage of all injuries requiring surgery, National High School Sports-Related Injury Surveillance Study, 2016-17.
6 Concussion rate per 10,000 exposures, National High School Sports-Related Injury Surveillance Study, 2016-17.

1st

out of 10

Psychosocial

Aspen Psychosocial Survey7

3.629

Personal Social Skills

(2nd out of 10)

2.695

Cognitive Skills

(4th out of 10)

3.623

Goal-Setting

(5th out of 10)

3.804

Initiative

(1st out of 10)

3.855

Health

(1st out of 10)

1.473

Negative Experiences

(7th out of 10)

Substance Abuse

Cigarette Use8
13.8%

(4th out of 10)

Binge Drinking9
29.2%

(6th out of 10)

Marijuana Use10
25%

(5th out of 10)

Academic Achievement

Cut Class11
28.3%

(4th out of 10)

A/A- Student12
36.3%

(T-5th out of 10)

Graduate From College13
61.3%

(5th out of 10)

Psychological health14

4.27

Self-Esteem

(T-4th out of 10)

2.23

Fatalism

(T-2nd out of 10)

3.77

Self-Efficacy

(5th out of 10)

2.46

Loneliness

(5th out of 10)

1.95

Self-Derogation

(5th out of 10)

4.23

Social Support

(2nd out of 10)

Expert Opinion Rank: 1st Out of 10

Key Characteristics: Soccer rates second among the 10 boys sports in the Aspen Institute/University of Texas psychosocial survey, barely behind No. 1 football. Developing initiative, health and social skills are strengths for soccer. The sport has the second-best scores for fatalistic beliefs and social support, according to Women’s Sports Foundation data.

7 Aspen Institute/University of Texas psychosocial benefits survey of high school athletes nationally, 2018. Scoring ranges from 1-4, with 4 being the best except for the Negative Experiences category.

8 Percentage of high school seniors in the sport smoking cigarettes in the past 30 days. Data from Monitoring the Future Study (2010-15) and analyzed by Women’s Sports Foundation in Teen Sport in America: Why Participation Matters.

9 Percentage of high school seniors in the sport binge drinking alcohol in the past two weeks. Data from Monitoring the Future Study (2010-15) and analyzed by Women’s Sports Foundation in Teen Sport in America: Why Participation Matters.

10 Percentage of high school seniors in the sport using marijuana in the past 30 days. Data from Monitoring the Future Study (2010-15) and analyzed by Women’s Sports Foundation in Teen Sport in America: Why Participation Matters.

11 Percentage of high school seniors in the sport who cut class for a full day in the past month. Data from Monitoring the Future Study (2010-15) and analyzed by Women’s Sports Foundation in Teen Sport in America: Why Participation Matters.

12 Percentage of high school seniors in the sport who have an average grade of an A or A-. Data from Monitoring the Future Study (2010-15) and analyzed by Women’s Sports Foundation in Teen Sport in America: Why Participation Matters.

13 Percentage of high school seniors in the sport who expect to graduate from a four-year college. Data from Monitoring the Future Study (2010-15) and analyzed by Women’s Sports Foundation in Teen Sport in America: Why Participation Matters.

14 Average scores of high school seniors in the sport in psychological health report card. Data for these six categories came from Monitoring the Future Study (2010-15) and analyzed by Women’s Sports Foundation in Teen Sport in America: Why Participation Matters. Scoring ranges from 1-5, with 5 being the best for self-esteem, self-efficacy and social support.

Compare Tool

Select Other Boys Sports to Compare and Scroll Down

Soccer (Boys)
Baseball (Boys)
Basketball (Boys)
Cross Country (Boys)
Football (Boys)
Lacrosse (Boys)
Swimming (Boys)
Tennis (Boys)
Track and Field (Boys)
Wrestling (Boys)

Complementary Sports

Healthy Sport Index recognizes the benefits of youth engaging in more than one sport during the year, through organized or casual play. Some youth also may want or need to find alternate sports, due to interest or roster-size limitations. There are two types of benefits to sport sampling: athletic/skill development in their primary sport, and overall health. First, let’s take a look at sports that can help develop athletic/skill development.

Athletic/Skill Development

For youth whose primary sport is soccer, US Youth Soccer recommends the following complementary sports.

Other Recommended Sports/Activities for Skills

Beach Soccer, Futsal, Volleyball

Rationale: Basketball and lacrosse have a crossover with soccer in skill development. All three require understanding of space. All three are invasion sports, meaning one teams invades the territory of another team. And all three possess instant transition with fast-break opportunities.

Not chasing an athletic scholarship or elite performance? Let’s now explore complementary sports that are less tailored to develop skills in this particular sport but can help build a well-rounded athlete for life.

Overall Health

For youth focused on this sport, the following are activities worth considering to build overall health and fitness. They are recommended by the Healthy Sport Index Advisory Group in consultation with the American College of Sports Medicine. Considerations include whether the primary sport is a team or individual sport, the amount of time the primary sport spends at practice on fitness, and options for sports that carry low-injury risks.

Other Recommended Sports/Activities for Health

Aerobic Classes, Cycling, Golf, Jogging, Jump Rope, Kayak, Martial Arts, Rock Climbing, Rowing, Skiing, Triathlon, Yoga

Rationale: Soccer is a team sport that would benefit from a companion individual sport. It’s a high-fitness sport, but sports with endurance would still help since soccer injuries occur far more frequently in the second half of games. Concussions and ankle injuries are common ailments.

Best Practices

Tips on how to make soccer active and safer

  1. Players must rest and recover. Avoid unnecessary running. Most players are in shape during the season; they don’t need sprints to win the next game or to be disciplined for a mistake. They need rest so they have the energy to perform when it counts. Build running into drills – and change up drills to avoid the monotony of a long season.
  2. Use active warmups before games. Many teams still have players in big circles doing static stretching before games. That’s a mistake. Best practice is running to get the muscles warm, then stretch them actively in motions that will be used in the game.
  3. Take a break from soccer. America’s pay-for-play soccer model means many adolescents play soccer year-round, between high school and club ball commitments. More is not always better and can lead to overuse injuries, including torn ACLs. Many sports medicine specialists recommend soccer players take at least one season off each year.
  4. Each team should know the medical history of players. Whether it’s high school or club, players should complete a physical history form. Players, coaches, parents and athletic trainers (there aren’t many of them in club) should be aware of player health, especially concussions. Multiple concussions may mean it’s time to give up soccer.
  5. Create positive dialogue between high school and club coaches. This can be a tense and frustrating situation because coaches in each environment prioritize their team, without considering the overall impact on the athlete. Bring everyone together. Build trust and figure out sensible solutions that place the health needs of the athlete above all else.

Learn More About Best Practices
Digital Coaching Center (U.S. Soccer)

Recognize to Recover (U.S. Soccer)

Parents Resource Library (US Youth Soccer)

Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services)