The extension of the season coupled with the rise in soccer’s popularity has led to an increase in soccer related injuries from both contact and non-contact on the field as well as from overuse. Some of the more common non-contact injuries include ankle and knee injuries, including ACL tears.
This same study suggested that a program of warm-ups, stretching and strengthening can help reduce the risk of knee injury. Yoga provides a way to incorporate dynamic stretching and targeted strength work before practice or a game. Learning a few yoga sequences can provide a fun way for a youth athletes to warm up with their teammates.
Following is a yoga sequence that will fire up the quads, calves, glutes and core, while also providing a stretch to the hip flexors, quads, hamstrings and inner/outer thigh muscles. You can do this sequence right on the field, no mats needed.
Starting in Mountain pose, inhale onto the balls of your feet, raise your arms overhead, engage your core, maintain a slight bend in the knees and lower and raise your heels 5 times working your balance and feeling a stretch up your calves. For some extra challenge, do it with your eyes closed.
Starting back at Mountain pose, slowly and mindfully lift the right foot off the ground, raising your arms overhead. Hinge your upper body forward and step back with your right foot into Arrow. Slowly bring your arms, shoulders and torso into alignment over your hips, coming into Crescent Lunge. Pause here finding balance in this pose and making sure you are balancing on the ball of the right foot with your left knee bent into a lunge, mindful that the left knee remains aligned over your ankle and pressing out towards the outer edge of your left foot. Stay here for five full breaths. Step back to Mountain and repeat on the other side.
Come back into Mountain pose, bring your hands to your hips and slowly raise your right foot in front of you, flexing the right foot. Hold the leg out in front of you for five full breaths. Slowly bring your hands to your heart center and hinge forward while bringing your right leg to the back, moving into Warrior 3. Bring your chest and lifted leg parallel to the ground and flex your raised foot. Hold for five full breaths and then release your right leg to the ground repeating the whole sequence on the left side. End back in Mountain pose.
From here, bend your right knee and bring it up in front of your torso. Find your balance here and then reach out for your right Big Toe with your right hand. Wrap your first two fingers around the toe and slowly extend the leg out in front of you. Find length in your spine, reaching the crown of your head to the sky while extending your leg out in front of you and feeling the hamstring stretch. If this feels comfortable, slowly take the leg out to the right side, holding for five full breaths. Release and repeat on the other side.
Come back to Mountain pose and find a nice natural breath. Close your eyes and stay here for 10 full breaths.
For more information and photos of these poses, head to www.yogajournal.com, a great resource for information about yoga.
 Chris G. Koutures and Andrew J. M. Gregory; Injuries in Youth Soccer; Pediatrics: The Official Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics; January 25, 2010.