Altidore injury looms after dramatic U.S. World Cup victory

United States' Jozy Altidore, right, shouts out as he pulls up injured as Ghana's John Boye looks on Monday at the Arena das Dunas in Natal, Brazil. (AP Photo/Dolores Ochoa) 

June 17, 2014 3:14 p.m.

The opening FIFA World Cup soccer game between the United States and Ghana was on the world stage this week in Natal, Brazil. Having lost to Ghana in 2006 and 2010, this contest was billed as a grudge match for the U.S. Everyone wondered if the U.S. had the grit and skill to avoid a three-peat.

The stands were covered in red, white and blue. Thousands of fans painted their faces and bodies and wore stars-and-stripes clothing. A huge support group for the U.S. team known as the American Outlaws was everywhere. Their passion and love for the team was obvious.

Chants like, “USA! USA! USA!” and “HEY, BELIEVE THAT WE WILL WIN! HEY, BELIEVE THAT WE WILL WIN!” were electrifying and convincing. The chants had meaning and sounded like mantras filled with psychological and spiritual power. And they seemed to be a motivator — within 30 seconds of the game, the U.S. crowd erupted as U.S. captain Clint Dempsey scored the team’s first goal. Twenty minutes later, U.S. striker Jozy Altidore was injured with a pulled hamstring and carried off the field. At half time, U.S. defender Matt Besler also left the game due to tightness of the hamstring. He was replaced by John Brooks, who went on to score the winning goal in the 86th minute.

As the U.S. continues in pool play against Portugal and Germany, Besler is expected to return, but it’s unlikely that Altidore will play. The intense play will probably result in other injuries as the tournament progresses.

Injuries are not only affecting the U.S. team. Players on other national teams are also out of commission. Injuries can play a significant factor in a team’s chance for success, and the medical staff and trainers will play a key role in facilitating their recovery and return to the field.

Soccer injuries are usually the result of trauma or overuse, but they can also result from poor conditioning and improper rest intervals and warm-ups. Trauma injuries happen as a result of a sudden impact with another player or forces caused by twisting, pivoting, decelerating, jumping and irregular landings. Other injuries are caused by overuse. These occur when stress is placed on the joints, muscles and soft tissues that have not had ample time to heal. Overuse injuries usually start out small and develop into a more serious problem that becomes painful and debilitating.

The most common lower extremity injuries in soccer are ankle sprains (when the ligaments around the ankle joint are torn or stretched), Achilles tendonitis (overuse injury in the back of the ankle), Achilles rupture (when the tendon behind the heel cord is torn requiring surgical intervention) and plantar fasciitis (inflammation of the thick fibrous band that runs along the sole from the heel bone to the toes).

Other lower extremity injuries include blisters, pulled or strained calf muscles, shin splints, sprains and strains and stress fractures.

Injuries to the upper extremities include hamstring pulls, tears or strains (similar to what occurred with Altidore and Besler), stress fractures to the leg, patellofemoral pain syndrome (knee), muscle cramps, Illiotibial band syndrome (pain on the outside portion of the knee and lower area), anterior cruciate ligament and posterior cruciate ligament injury (knee), medial collateral ligament and lateral collateral ligament damage (knee), torn cartilage damage (knee), groin pulls and head concussions.

Remember to tune in to the remainder of the World Cup games. I am sure the American Outlaws will feel your support through the airwaves. You will be astounded at the high level of skills that these world-class players possess.

If you play soccer and suffer from lower extremity problems, consult with your physician or podiatrist.

Dr. John Sigle is a board-certified foot and ankle surgeon who has years of experience treating lower-level extremity injuries. Call (217) 787-2700 for a consultation at the Foot & Ankle Center of Illinois. Advanced care and treatment options are available to keep athletes in the game.