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Knee & Ankle Injury Prevention for Soccer Players: Exercises to Reduce Risk of Injury

Knee & Ankle Injury Prevention for Soccer Players: Exercises to Reduce Risk of Injury

Soccer is one of the few sports where there is not much down time and requires a good amount of endurance. Most of the injuries occur in the first and last 10 minutes either due to athlete’s inadequate warm-up or lacking the proper conditioning and fatigue sets in. Two common injuries as a result of improper warm-up or fatigue include ankle sprains and ACL tears.

These two injuries are common due to the amount of twisting, turning, and pivoting involved. ACL tears are more common in the high school years partially due to increased flexibility in the ligaments to accommodate a growing skeleton.

These athletes need to have increased stability provided by their muscles which is why a thorough warm-up is important. The warm-up needs to cover full range of motion movements starting with slow and controlled progressing to quick, dynamic movements that replicate the game-like conditions. Here are 4 tips on how to prevent injuries in the upcoming seasons!

1. Stretching

It is good to start with a few stretches to prepare the larger muscles for the activities. The key muscles to target include hamstrings, quads, calves, and glutes. These are the larger, more powerful muscles that help hold the body up and propel you during running. Flexibility in the hips and legs are vital for your body to absorb excessive forces that could create an injury.

Standing Hamstring Stretch

  1. Place one foot up onto a chair or bench
  2. While keeping your back straight, bend forward at the hips until you feel a stretch in the back of the leg.

Standing Quad Stretch

  1. Bring your heel toward your back
  2. Use the same arm to grab your foot and pull it closer until you feel a stretch in the front of the thigh.

Standing Calf Stretch

  1. Keep your heel on the ground and put your toes up onto the goal post
  2. Keeping your back straight and pull your body towards the post to feel a stretch in the calf.

Sitting Glute Stretch

  1. Sitting with both legs in front of you, cross one leg over the other and put your foot beside your opposite knee.
  2. Pull the knee towards your chest and rotate your trunk towards that leg.

2. Warm Up

The warm-up should start with general light exercises using larger muscles to get the blood pumping to the whole body.

This should include:

  • Light jogging forward and backward
  • Zig-zag drills
  • Progressing to cutting drills to work on changing directions quickly.

3. Strength

The strength of the legs and hips help stabilize the body and increases the ability to absorb some of the external forces. The gluts help stabilize the pelvis while running or any time one leg is on the ground. The quad and hamstring need to balance each other to add stability to the ligaments of the knee. Walking lunges and single leg squats are great ways to target these three key muscle groups.

4. Plyometrics

Plyometrics and high speed functional movements such as:

  • 20 yard sprints
  • Single leg cone jumps (line up short cones and jump over)
  • Vertical jumps with headers

These should be that last exercise performed because simulates game-like activities. These activities get the body ready for quick, dynamic movements that could potentially create an injury.

It is important to be in tune with how your body feels while on the field. The athlete is the first person to feel an injury coming and should inform the coach or athletic trainer as soon as possible. It is easier to treat a sprain versus a full tear, so athletes should listen to what their body is telling them.

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If you currently have certain injuries or pain that is preventing you from playing soccer, please stop in for a free consultation (sign up below!) to discuss your condition, and we’ll get you on the right track.


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David Luckett, PT, DPT
David likes to try all of the wonderful outdoor activities California has to offer, especially a new found passion for cycling. He thoroughly enjoys hiking, rock climbing, snowboarding and golf. David is an avid sports fan and grew up playing many different sports which means he spends a lot of his down time watching sporting events.