Sports injuries are often a result of insufficient preparation to get the body's joints and muscles warm and loose. The warm-up is one of the most important components of injury prevention. In fact, and contrary to popular belief, warming-up is just as important as drinking water or playing the actual, physical game of soccer. You wouldn't ride a bike without gears, right? It's very important that no player ever participates in any exercises or games without warming up properly.
It is also extremely important that no player ever stretches before they warm up; this is a common practice and can result in a number of injuries. Check out the current warm-up and stretching routine that many high school and collegiate teams use every day before practices and games!
- Laps! Generally, try to have teams jogging at a decent pace for a few minutes. It won't do any good to run for just 30 seconds, you've got to prepare your lungs for the struggles of an incoming 90 minute game. A good rule of thumb is to finish just after you've broken a sweat -- then your body is good and warm for whatever comes next.
Set up a cone 10-12 yards away from the players and have them do the following activities to the cone and back:
- Side shuffle with arm crosses
- Inch worms
- High knees + butt kicks
- Walking lunge + alternating side lunge
- High kicks
Often, these type of stretches are referred to as a dynamic warm-up. These are important because they allow to body to loose up slowly and easily without being launched right into being forceful activity. Stretching cold, tightened muscles without a dynamic warm-up can lead to many avoidable injuries. Once you're warmed up, try these stretches:
- Toe Touches -- right, left, middle
- Lunges -- right, left
- Lunge with opposite foot pointed -- upright, left
- On-The-Ground Toe Touches -- right, left, middle * Butterfly Stretch -- count to ten and try to go down as far as possible without pain. Then flap your legs out for about thirty seconds before repeating. Be sure you're bringing your body down and not bending your neck.
- Thigh Stretch -- right foot to right hand, left foot to left hand, right foot to left hand, left foot to right hand
- Ankle Rotations -- right foot-clockwise, counter clockwise, left foot-clockwise, counter-clockwise
- Trunk Twists
- Small Arm Rotations -- medium pace, forwards then backwards
- Large Arm Rotations -- medium pace, forwards then backwards
- Neck Rotations -- clockwise, counter clockwise
(Related: Read about preventing ACL injuries here.)
You may want to critique each stretch based on your desires and particular needs -- but following this routine has been proven to work. Stick to this and your team will be ready and rearing for game time! Make sure you take extra time to take care of yourself, as well! If you're tight in an area, spend a moment to focus on it. Stretching and warming-up will help you win the battle against preventing injuries. Don't cut corners, because you definitely can't on the trainer's table!
Be prepared for the biggest moments by mastering the small ones off the field.