Megan Rapinoe's job is to make her teammates look good. The play-making midfielder is known for her pinpoint passes—such as the perfect cross she delivered to Abby Wambach in the 2011 World Cup quarterfinals. With the team down 2-1 to Brazil in the 120th minute of overtime, Rapinoe's curling kick to a streaking Wambach was served up perfectly for the scorer to head it home. The U.S. went on to win the match, and that play remains an iconic moment in U.S. soccer history.
Rapinoe's path to becoming a USWNT mainstay was not easy. In the midst of a spectacular sophomore season at the University of Portland, she tore her left ACL. After a long rehab process, she returned to the field the next season—but played only two games before tearing the same ACL.
"I realized I wasn't invincible," Rapinoe says. "It tests you. But I think it helped me grow and learn how to take care of my body."
Now 29 years old, Rapinoe has rebounded from those early injuries. She's appeared in nearly 100 games for the USWNT, tallying 30 assists and 29 goals to date. And she credits her prehab and recovery methods—which she learned as a result of those college injuries—as big reasons for her enduring success. She says, "Training is not just about getting stronger and faster. It's about injury prevention. It all ties into one another."
Every day, Rapinoe goes through a series of prehab exercises using a SKLZ mini-band. She's also a big believer in self-massage. She says, "I'll grab my massage bar or do some foam rolling and I always hit my IT bands, my calves and my VMO [a powerful muscle just above the knee]. I often do it before bed."
Megan Rapinoe's Mini-Band Prehab Routine
Do It: Stand with your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, hips back, back flat. Place two mini-bands around your legs, one just above the knees and one around the ankles. Keeping one leg stationary, rotate the other knee in and then back out. Complete a set on one side before repeating with the opposite leg.
Feel It: Working your glutes and outer hips.
Sets/Reps: 3x10 each leg
Lateral Straight Leg Walk
Do It: Stand tall, feet hip-width apart, with a mini-band above your knees and another one around your ankles. Walk to the side taking small steps. Drive your elbows back with each step. Step with your lead leg first followed by your trailing leg. Continue for the full set. Reverse directions and repeat.
Feel It: Working your glutes.
Sets/Reps: 3x5 each direction
Do It: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, arms at your sides, with mini-bands above your knees and around your ankles. Initiating the move with your hips, squat down and back until your thighs are parallel to the floor. As you descend, raise your arms out in front of you. Return to a standing position by pushing through your hips while lowering your arms. Continue for the remainder of the set.
Feel It: Working your glutes, hamstrings, and quads.
A Comeback State of Mind
Injuries happen to everyone, so when an injury does occur, Rapinoe advises patience. She says, "Don't think, 'Oh, I'm going to be screwed forever.' Be patient. Focus on what you can control. There's no rushing your body, so don't put yourself on a timeline. Be patient with the healing and be kind to your body."
Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock