HEALTH WATCH By Michelle Cappello
With the World Cup rounding into full swing, we are watching the most elite soccer athletes playing consecutive matches in the heat of the Brazilian winter. Here at home, with our summer soccer programs in full swing, we are seeing our young soccer athletes compete in three-day tournaments. This highlights the question of how can these athletes achieve complete physical performance recovery after each match?
Incomplete recovery might result in underperformance, fatigue and a higher risk of injury. Fatigue is the primary risk factor for injury in young athletes. Recovery strategies are therefore required to alleviate post-match fatigue, regain performance faster and reduce the risk of injury. Post-match fatigue is linked to a combination of dehydration, glycogen depletion, muscle damage and mental fatigue. To reduce the magnitude of fatigue and to accelerate the time to fully recover after competition, several recovery strategies can be used with young developing athletes.
>> Hydration strategies are to be maintained both during (every 20 min) and after competition. Athletes who are dehydrated lose 15 percent of their strength.
>> Active recovery exercise and some light active and static stretches (10 seconds per stretch). Focus on the major lower body muscles.
>> Refueling by having a light snack (e.g. fruit, mufï¬n, or yogurt, etc) and a meal within two hours of the sport session. Those athletes who do not consume appropriate food in sufficient amounts may experience excessive fatigue and may pre-dispose them to a number of illnesses and injuries.
>> Encourage athletes to shower to relax for mental and physical relaxation.
>> Contrast showers, spas, saunas, and cold baths are NOT recommended for prepubescent children as their thermodynamic regulatory systems are not fully developed.
>> Sleep is an essential part of recovery management. Sleep disturbance after a match is common and can negatively impact on the recovery process.
Recovery in soccer, and all of youth sports, is a complex issue. Recovery strategies should be targeted against the major causes of fatigue and need to be individualized to each athlete’s developmental and training age.
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