How to recover like a pro

May 07, 2017 by

After 5 rounds of the Senior Men’s QLD NPL season the Brisbane Strikers first team were travelling well with all players eager and ready to collect full points in our next game against the Sunshine Coast Fire. The first 5 rounds were challenging for the team with 4 out of the 5 games located away from Perry Park including games in Ipswich, the Gold Coast and Cairns. This meant that to ensure all players were fighting fit each and every week, it was of the utmost importance that their recovery was top notch.

This is no different to junior footballers who also often experience muscle tightness, muscle soreness, fatigue and general grumpiness post game when recovery is not optimal. So I have put together some strategies to assist your son’s recovery post game, to maximise week-to-week performance and more importantly help to reduce risk of injury.

Below are common strategies we currently use with the Brisbane Strikers first team including some I have utilised during my time working with both the North Queensland Fury and the Brisbane Roar in the A-League.

Cold water immersion
The dreaded ice bath would strike fear into most professional footballers I have worked with during my time in the A-League. It was utilised as it was believed to have a positive effect on reducing the perceptions of muscle soreness and reducing inflammation. A study of 32 professional football clubs across Europe found that 88% of all teams used some form of ice bath recovery regime post games for similar reasons. The recommended time in an ice bath can vary between 2-15 minutes and the temperature can vary between 12-15 degrees Celsius depending on the individual’s tolerance. There are several benefits with using an ice bath but always remember to supervise when using it with to ensure young athletes to ensure they don’t turn into a solid ice blocks.

Compression garments
Skins, Linebreak, 2XU, Under Armour and Total Compression are all examples of brands that make a variety of compression garments. It is believed compression garments assist with increasing blood flow, decreasing inflammation, increasing the removal of waste products and decreasing the perception of DOMS (Delayed Onset of Muscle Soreness). The jury is still out with what actually occurs but further studies are continually being done. Despite this most professional clubs use compression wear and it is a recommended tool to use especially while travelling and during rest post training and games if you are looking to get an edge with your recovery.

Active recovery
Active recovery, more commonly termed ‘warm down’, can include stretching, light intensity exercise and range of movement activities to name a few. These are aimed to assist with reducing lactic acid and restoring the body’s range of movement. There have been several studies that have shown this has very little effect on an individual’s ability to recover well and increase a player’s performance. Despite this many professional clubs as well as the Brisbane Strikers first team to this day still utilise active recovery as part of their programs and have found it effective with maximising recovery. So, despite its conflicting benefits, it is recommended that while you are having the classic post game chat about the ref’s performance, you may benefit from some active recovery to set you up for next week’s game.

Massage
Most professional footballers I have worked with enjoy a massage the following day after a game. The professional clubs I’ve worked with saw massage being beneficial in reducing inflammation and decreasing muscle soreness. However, there is very limited research that supports this. There is some evidence that shows it can increase the individual’s perception of recovery. What this means is that the actual effects of massage on the body are still inconclusive but the players report they feel much more recovered post massage. Whether massage is of benefit to you will be a more to do with individual taste, time and cost.

Nutrition/hydration
What you put in your mouth post matches is considered to be one of the main factors in enhancing recovery. The same study of 32 professional football teams found up to 97% of clubs believe this has a major effect on maximising recovery. 1.2 to 1.5L of hydration for each kg of weight loss over 6 hours following a game is suggested. Rapid ingestion of carbohydrates, proteins and amino acids during the next 24-72 hours post matches is also important. Examples of drinks that are used at the A-League level to assist hydration include Gatorade and Powerade. Chocolate milk and/or berry juice post match have also been popular choices due to the benefits of improving hydration and providing some of the carbohydrates, proteins and amino acids recommended. A well-balanced meal that includes some form of protein such as meat, fish or chicken with carbohydrates such as pasta, rice or bread with vegetables are ideal meals to maximise your recovery and are better choices than the classic trip through the drive thru under the ‘golden arches’.

Sleep
Getting a good night’s sleep is arguably the most important factor in maximising recovery post games with 95% of the 32 professional European teams studied thinking sleep was a crucial component of recovery. Sleep can assist not only the body’s ability to recover properly but has also been associated with mental recovery. It has been found that players who have a good night’s sleep have better decision making skills, improved learning and it has a positive effect on mood. 7-8 hours of quality sleep is what is widely recommended. So when the sun rises the next morning don’t feel too guilty letting the kids sleep in a little and enjoying a little peace and quiet for yourselves.

Conclusion
As you can see there are a variety of different approaches to maximise your recovery and not all strategies used in professional clubs have yet to be proven to have a solid positive effect on a player’s recovery. Despite the variety in strategies and the mixed evidence, the take home message is that you choose recovery strategies for your child based on what they can do regularly and effectively. Consistency is far more important than finding the perfect recovery program. Always remember a GOOD program that you DO is better than a PERFECT program that you DON’T DO!

Below is an example of the Brisbane Strikers first team Recovery Protocol post matches:
Active recovery (warm down)
Scales (used to calculate how much hydration is required to maximise recovery for each individual player)
Hydration (sports drinks/water)
Ice bath
Compression garments
Nutrition (post match meal)
Sleep

Luis is the Medical Coordinator and first team physiotherapist for the Brisbane Strikers and is available to all players at Brisbane Strikers in his clinic ‘Get Athletic’. If you would like further information on what to do to get the most out of these recovery strategies or would like to book an appointment with Luis feel free to send him a message on luis.resa@outlook.com where he will be happy to answer any questions regarding your son’s injury management.

Luis Resa
Physiotherapist
Get Athletic

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