How Acupuncture can benefit soccer players

Soccer is the most internationally recognised sport of the era, from professionally to the amateur player. The FIFA (Federation International de Football Association) World Cup is one of the most watched event worldwide. It has been said, that acupuncture can reduce future injuries to the elite soccer athletes. With the numbers rising of participants worldwide, the concern of prevention and safety needs to be a focus with clubs to protect the players. As with any sport the more training the more potential for an injury.

A researched article on prevention target groups in soccer states, there are more injuries in outdoor soccer particularly for men than sports such as rugby, cricket, fencing or boxing (van Beijsterveldt et al., 2012).

According to a Brazilian study, soccer injuries can average out to 10 to 15 incidents within a timeframe of 1000 hours of practice (Goncalves et al., 2011). Whereas a study was done on the epidemiology of muscle injuries in football that explained that one third of all professional soccer injuries are muscle injuries, mainly injuring the adductors, hamstring, calf muscles and quadriceps (Ekstrand, 2011).

A study was done via a prospective cohort, both female and male soccer players (their elite players were considered) from a soccer association in Ontario Canada from the ages of 13 to 19 years of age, over a four-year period (2008 to 2012). Information was gathered from players exposed to potential injuries. A total of 733 injuries were recorded (46% of the injuries were recorded as muscle strain, pull or tightness) looking at muscular strain, it was clear that prevention programs needed to be altered, aiming to better strength and effectively warm up the players to avoid injuries. With the help of altering their training to avoid injuries they found that acupuncture helped eliminate new injuries and helped with the repair and strengthening of current injuries (Mohib et al., 2017). 

Another study conducted was to see the effectiveness of an acupuncture point Zusanli St 36. This point lies within the Stomach meridian in Traditional Chinese Medicine, which is located below the knee which can assist with alleviating pain, clear up internal heat, nourish the blood and body fluid and allow more energy. They found that the point helped the soccer players that had been used for testing, players had more anaerobic power. They tested power within each player, with and without needling St 36. St 36 increased the immune system, as well it enhanced overall balance and wellbeing (Ozerkan et al., 2012).

Another study was done using St 36 and Kongzui, Lu6 (lung 6) on the flexor aspect of the forearm. This study indicated how using these two points on athletes to show how acupuncture can assist with their wellbeing, mood states, muscle tension and fatigue. The results in the end showed that acupuncture used on athletes assisted with physical and mental well-being of the athletes during competitions. As stress and injuries tend to be higher than usual during this time (AKIMOTO et al., 2012).

But the question lies why does acupuncture work? And why is it that most clubs use acupuncture as a complementary treatment to assist with prevention, pain and healing.   

Many people question whether acupuncture is safe or not. The answer is that it is considered to be a safe practise in comparison to medication and surgeries (Peuker & Filler, 2004).

Acupuncture is alternative medicine that balances the Qi within the whole body to allow for homeostasis. In my belief, I can say that acupuncture is safer than taking medication which over a long period of time can harm your liver and other organs for pain relief. As the needles work on the whole body (Holistic) not just the pain as a western medicine approach.

Most people are not convinced that acupuncture works scientifically, but only believe that it has some therapeutic effects and therefore can assist with pain. The needles are inserted into points that are located on meridians that the vital energy runs through to balance the yin and yang (not being balanced can cause disease) qi to balance the body. So, when it comes to pain the needles allow for more blood to flow and enhancing the body’s natural control of dealing with pain ("Acupuncture: How Does Acupuncture Work?", 2016).

Acupuncture resets the body and helps maintain health within, and studies have shown that acupuncture is more beneficial (no side effects) than taking medication to help with pain.

A theory on how acupuncture works is the nerve fibres are stimulated and transmit messages to the spinal cord and the brain sparking the CNS (central nervous system). Then hormones (endorphins) are released to make the pain diminish and increase white blood cells to boost our immunity. The amount of treatments depends on the individual and level of pain. It is safe to receive acupuncture for pain, healing and future prevention of injuries with no side effects ("Acupuncture", 2016).

Helen Efstathiou


Reference List

Acupuncture: How Does Acupuncture Work? (2016). Medical News Today. Retrieved 17 April 2016, from 

Acupuncture. (2016). University of Maryland Medical Center. Retrieved 17 April 2016, from

AKIMOTO, T., NAKAHORI, C., AIZAWA, K., KIMURA, F., FUKUBAYASHI, T. and KONO, I. (2012). Acupuncture and Responses of Immunologic and Endocrine Markers during Competition. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 35(8), pp.1296-1302.

  Arliani, G., Belangero, P., Runco, J. and Cohen, M. (2011). The Brazilian Football Association (CBF) model for epidemiological studies on professional soccer player injuries. Clinics, 66(10), pp.1707-1712.

  Ekstrand, J. (2011). Epidemiology of football injuries. Science & Sports, 23(2), pp.73-77.

  Mohib, M., Moser, N., Kim, R. and Gringmuth, R. (2017). A four year prospective study of injuries in elite Ontario youth provincial and national soccer players during training and match play. The Journal Of The Canadian Chiropractic Association, 58(2014 Dec), pp.369-376.

Ozerkan, K., Bayraktar, B., Yucesir, I., Cakir, B. and Yildiz, F. (2012). EFFECTIVENESS OF OMURA'S ST.36 POINT {TRUE ST.36) NEEDLING ON THE WINGATE ANAEROBIC TEST RESULTS OF YOUNG SOCCER PLAYERS. Acupuncture & Electro-Therapeutics Research, 34(3), pp.205-216.

Polgar, S., & Thomas, S. (2013). Introduction to research in the health sciences. Edinburgh: Churchill Livingstone.

Van Beijsterveldt, A., Krist, M., Schmikli, S., Stubbe, J., de Wit, G., Inklaar, H., van de Port, I. and Backx, F. (2012). Effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of an injury prevention programme for adult male amateur soccer players: design of a cluster-randomised controlled trial. Injury Prevention, 17(1), pp.e2-e2.