Now that soccer fans are realizing that the World Cup is over until 2014, the younger ones may be tempted to play the game themselves. Dr. Bezalel Paskin, head of the knee unit at Rambam Medical Center in Haifa – and also team orthopedist of the Maccabi Haifa soccer team – offered advice on Sunday to help prospective players avoid getting hurt.The first rule – which is apt for all sports and exercise – is to warm up before you play by running or stretching muscles to get your blood circulation going, he said, as going straight into physical activity can lead to pain and strain. In addition, it is preferable to play soccer on a soft surface, such as grass or sand, and not on concrete, which can result in injuries.Soccer games should be supervised, said Paskin, to ensure that it is played properly and without roughhousing that is against the rules.In addition, sports shoes such as those worn for basketball or running are not suited to soccer. If you play on a hard surface, the shoes must have shock absorbers, and if you play on grass, shoes with cleats are needed, he said.“They should not be too large or too small,” he asserted. “It’s a mistake to [try and] save money on shoes to play soccer.”If one is injured (not seriously) during play and the pain doesn’t pass in a reasonable time, Paskin said, one should go straight to a hospital orthopedics outpatient for care.Dr. Naama Constantini, chief of sports medicine at Hadassah Optimal and part of the orthopedics department at Hadassah-University Medical Center in Jerusalem’s Ein Kerem neighborhood, added that synthetic grass should be avoided as a playing field if possible, as it is believed to cause more injuries and back problems compared to real grass.In addition, she urged youngsters to make sure they weren’t playing in a dangerous place such as on a street or in a parking lot.People in their 30s or older who have watched the games on TV and suddenly want to relive their childhoods by playing should go for a checkup with their doctor or a sports medicine specialist to ensure that their bodies are up to it, she added.The obligatory warmup before playing should slowly increase the heartbeat and not only warm up the joints and ligaments, said Constantini.“Do not suddenly sprint into the field.”Butting the ball with your head is a traditional part of soccer, she said, but if it hits you at high speed, there can be trauma to the head.“It’s important to use the right technique and to strengthen the muscles of your neck [as per] advice from an expert,” said the sports medicine specialist.And finally, she said, as soccer is usually played in the summer, it is vital to make sure to drink plenty of water before and after the game and to play when it is cooler and not at the height of the day’s heat.