Each and every sport requires certain skill sets. Typically these skill sets need to be mastered with thousands of reps done over and over but because of this constant repetition, it lends itself to overuse and/or structural abnormalities. Look at baseball players, these athletes, by the time they get to the pros (and even in high school) have thrown a ball thousands of times which has shown through to MRI to contain some type of “abnormal” structural changes. It is partially what makes them great but unfortunately makes them more susceptible to injuries. Not to mention that nowadays there are many sports being played all year round which is a mistake for improving speed, power, strength, and preventing the onset of them. Soccer is no different. The constant stress being applied through the hips from the kicking the soccer ball can cause hip abnormalities especially femoroacetabular impingement (FAI). It can also be seen a ton in hockey players. To know just how much these changes are happening lets look at two research articles done on elite level soccer players.
The prevalence of radiographic hip abnormalities in elite soccer players. (Am J Sports Med 2012 Mar)
Looked at 95 elite male and female players in which 72% of males and 50% of females demonstrated some evidence of radiograpghic hip abnormalities. Cam lesions (a type of FAI) were present in 68% (76.5% bilateral abnormality) of males and 50% of females (90% bilaterally). Pincer lesions, another type of FAI, were present in 26.7% and 10% of males and females respectively.
Femoroacetabular impingement in former high-level youth soccer players. (Am J Sports Med 2012 June)
They compared hips of 50 male and females who competed in high level youth soccer while the other 50 did not. What they found was that 50% of the high level youth males had evidence of cam deformity (14 in non-high level playing). 36% of females (high level ) had cam deformity (8 non-high level).
These are definitely higher percentages than what I would have imagined. However, it sheds light on the fact that we have to be careful of what we prescribe in our programs with these athletes and even more reason to know more about assessment and why it is critically important. It certain athletic populations it is OK to assume that these individuals may present with abnormalities so that we create programs that are safer and more effective for that population.