Because of the demands placed on the hip joint during soccer specific activities including running, sprinting, dribbling, kicking and other complex movement combinations an athlete must have a great amount of hip strength, flexibility and control in order to prevent injury.
When considering the biomechanical break down of the soccer athlete's kick you will see there is a great demand placed on the joint requiring good muscular control and flexibility. The first phase of the kick, or the loading phase, is when the leg is extended back and hips are open primarily using the hamstring and gluteus muscle. Following the loading phase, the soccer athlete transitions into the acceleration phase where the leg comes in front of and across their body putting great demand on the core musculature and hip flexors. Muscular strains occur when the muscle is stretched beyond its normal limits, such as with a soccer kick, and can be the result of doing too much too soon, inadequately warming-up or overworking the musculature.
In order to prevent an acute muscle strain we need to educate our athletes on proper ways to take care of and listen to their bodies including an effective warm-up and being hydrated. Chronic muscle strains can be avoided through proper management of their practice with majority of their time spent on quality of technique. The main muscle groups that are prone to strains in the soccer athlete include the adductors, hamstrings, and quadriceps.
Treatment of this type of injury begins with the RICE protocol and the proper progression through a stretching program. With a muscle strain there is no specific return-to-sport protocol other than restoring foundational movements first (pain free walking) and progressing to larger macro-level activities (running). With the knowledge of how to prevent muscle strains and if injured, how to properly treat, the soccer athlete can greatly reduce their time away from the field!