How Acupuncture can benefit soccer players

Soccer is the most internationally recognised sport of the era, from professional leagues to the amateur player. The FIFA (Federation International de Football Association) World Cup is one of the most watched sporting events worldwide.

It has been said that acupuncture can reduce future injuries in elite soccer athletes. With the numbers of participants rising worldwide, 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 that there are more injuries in outdoor soccer particularly for men than in 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). Another study was done on the epidemiology of muscle injuries in football, finding 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 the numbers relating to muscular strain, it was clear that prevention programs needed to be altered, to better strengthen 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 as well as with the repair and strengthening of current injuries (Mohib et al., 2017).

Research was also conducted into the effectiveness of acupuncture point Zusanli St 36. This point lies within the Stomach meridian in Traditional Chinese Medicine (located below the knee), which is said to be connected to alleviating pain, clearing up internal heat, nourishing the blood and body fluids and allowing more energy. The study found that the point helped boost anaerobic power in the soccer players tested, with and without needling St 36. St 36 was also found to increase the immune system, and enhance 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 to see if acupuncture could assist with players’ wellbeing, mood states, muscle tension and fatigue. The results showed that acupuncture did benefit athletes with their physical and mental well-being during competitions, when stress and injuries are usually much higher (AKIMOTO et al., 2012).

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

While many people question whether acupuncture is safe or not, it is usually considered to be a safe practice in comparison to medication and surgeries (Peuker & Filler, 2004).

Acupuncture is an alternative medicine treatment that balances the Qi within the body to allow for homeostasis. In my belief, acupuncture is safer than taking medication for pain relief, as over a long period of time medication can harm your liver and other organs. The needles work on the whole body (holistically) not just on the pain, as in 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 qi in the body (not being balanced is thought to be the cause of disease). So, when it comes to managing pain, the needles allow for more blood to flow, enhancing the body’s natural ability to deal with pain (“Acupuncture: How Does Acupuncture Work?”, 2016).

One theory on how acupuncture works is that the nerve fibres are stimulated, transmitting messages to the spinal cord and the brain, thereby sparking the CNS (central nervous system). Hormones (endorphins) are then released which make the pain diminish, while an increase in white blood cells boosts our immunity. The amount of treatments depends on the individual and level of pain, but it is a safe treatment 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.

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