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How U.S. Soccer Superstar Alex Morgan Prevents Injuries On and Off the Field

Luckily for Morgan, a torn ACL was just a hurdle in her soccer career. (Photo courtesy of Depuy Mitek, Inc.

When balls fly at my head, I usually duck. Thankfully, U.S. Olympic soccer player Alex Morgan does not. As you might remember, Morgan scored the winning goal (off a header) at the Olympics in overtime against Canada to take the U.S. team into the game medal match against Japan. Now that the Games are behind her, Morgan is teaming up with DePuy Mitek, Inc., the official sports medicine sponsor of the 2014 FIFA World Cup to launch an initiative to educate parents, coaches and athletes about the importance of injury prevention. Read on to see how she stays injury-free and what she wants athletes everywhere to know.

What’s the main idea behind this initiative with the Sports Injury Prevention Program? Aside from teaching parents, coaches and athletes how important it is to make sure your muscles are warm and ready to go before a game, they’ve also created the FIFA 11+, a warm-up program designed to reduce injuries in athletes 14 years and older. If you do these exercises twice a week, which consists of a mix of running, balance and plyometric exercises you significantly decrease your chance of getting hurt on the field.

Do you remember the first time you were badly injured playing soccer? I tore my ACL when I was 17, which was a really important time in my life. It was my first college season and basically the worst time ever to get hurt. I had to get surgery and it took me five months to get back on the field. I wish they had this program back then, especially because female athletes have a much higher injury rate.

What do you think caused your ACL injury? I can’t say for certain, but I do have a theory. I had battled several other smaller injuries and my muscles and joints just weren’t used to playing at such a high level. I was trying out for a new team and I really wanted to play at their level even if my body wasn’t quite there yet.

How did you recover? After having surgery to repair my ACL, I had to go physical therapy three times a week. My teammates and family were also a big support system for me. When you are injured, you physically go through a process. There are steps you start to take. You start running, and then cutting again and build from there. But emotionally I was a wreck. My whole life revolved around soccer and then all of a sudden it suddenly didn’t, so that took a huge toll on me.

What do you do now before a game to prevent injuries? I do warm-up exercises like the FIFA 11+ pretty much every day whether I am playing or not. I just can’t take the chance; I get paid to be on the soccer field. At times my knee will get a little sore or my ankles will get stiff (both have been sprained before), and when that happens I take a few more minutes to do balance exercises and get loose before taking the field. We have girls on the team who are 35 and are still playing a high level without getting injured, so we definitely know our bodies and what they need.

Now that you’ve got that gold medal checked off on your list, what’s next? I’m playing in our victory tour (with teammate Christie Rampone) and at the same time I’m helping the Sports Injury Prevention Program team run clinics to teach the FIFA 11+ exercises. There are 15 clinics all over the country, so I’ll be busy the next few months!

For more information on sports injury prevention, including the FIFA 11+ techniques and clinics, visit the Sports Injury Prevention Program Facebook page.