Injury Prevention in Youth Athletes

More than 50% of all high school students play a sport. Knee injuries are the most common injuries reported among young athletes, particularly ACL injuries, which account for more than 50% of high school athletic surgeries. Given the prevalence of knee injuries in youth sports, it is likely that you or someone you know has sustained a serious knee injury before graduating high school. Of those individuals that have had an ACL repair, it is likely that 20% will re-injure within 2 years. Many of these injuries result from non-contact incidents, such as stopping and cutting for a ball or a route. Young athletes are particularly at risk for injury as they grow, and bones, tendons, and ligaments are lengthening. While growing, their strength to height ratios are constantly changing. In the age of early sports specialization, it is not uncommon that adolescent athletes are playing a single sport year round with no other cross-training. It is imperative that as young athletes narrow their athletic focus that we give them the tools to prevent injury.

Seattle Pediatric Sports Medicine Group has developed an evidence-based functional warm-up program that can be done before practices or games to prepare all areas of the body for athletic participation and help prevent injury, particularly ACL injury during sports. This was designed by sports medicine physicians and physical therapists as a dynamic warm-up program for performance enhancement and prevention of injuries especially in soccer, but really for any sport that includes running, jumping, and pivoting.

This program includes the following 19 exercises that can be broken down into these four categories: dynamic mobility, strength, motor control, and agility. The dynamic warm-up can be completed in 15-20 minutes.
1. Open/Close Gait
2. Side Lunge
3. Cradle Walk
4. Quadriceps Stretch with Reach
5. Butt Kickers
6. Lunge with Rotation
7. Inch Worm
8. Rotating Side to Prone Plank
9. T’s
10. Double Leg Squat
11. Single Leg Kickstand Squat
12. Double Leg Squat Jump
13. Single Leg Anterior Deceleration
14. L Hops
15. Diagonal Hops
16. Partner Jump Bump
17. Diagonal Backward Shuffle
18. Cone Weave
19. Bounding

On the Seattle Pediatric Sports Medicine site, you may access handouts and videos of all 19 exercises. If you would like help implementing this in your routine, or your young athlete’s routine, schedule with one of our physical therapists today.



1. A Multisport Epidemiologic Comparison of Anterior Cruciate Ligament Injuries in High School Athletics. Joseph A., Collins C., Henke N., Yard E., Fields S., and Comstock R. (2013). J Athl Train. Nov-Dec; 48(6): 810-817.