Recovery methods in Soccer

Players go to their physical and mental limits each game. However, too little attention is paid to a sufficient recovery of the players during the course of a season. In our training blog we explain which regeneration measures coaches can rely on.

Faster, higher, stronger - the constant pursuit of excellence is always present, in football as well. Especially in the fast-paced professional sports business, coaches have little time until they must be successful. The pressure on coaches and staff then transfers to the players. The football club’s physiotherapists and physicians are using several regeneration measures to help them recover as quickly as possible for them to be ready for the next game. The cold application is one of the best-known methods, which according to a study 88% of all teams in the French first league apply in the course of a season. Other popular methods include active recovery and massage, which is used by 81% and 78% of all French 1st division teams.

But what do these methods actually achieve?

Cold application

The fields of application of this method are manifold. Cold chambers, cooling vests or the famous ice bath all are methods of cold application. Because of the difference in types of this method, the application time and temperature are handled differently in practice. When visiting a cold chamber, players are usually exposed to a temperature of -110 °C for up to 3 minutes [2]. However, this method is available to only the fewest football clubs, which is why physiotherapists and medical staff should focus on regeneration with cold water. According to scientific research, an application period of 10-12 minutes at 12-15 ° C is ideal for the regeneration of the body [3]. By lowering the muscle and core temperature, it may then come to a reduction in the development of inflammation. The cold-induced pain inhibition is another possible effect of the cold application, which has a positive effect on the subjective feeling of recovery for the athletes. However, a so-called placebo effect cannot be ruled out.

Due to the low acquisition costs, for example of a rain barrel, and the simple implementation this type of cold application can be used in each club. In addition to the possible recovery effects of a cold application, this can also be seen as a team-building measure, because the immersion of a player into the icy water will cheer up the rest of the team, time and time again.

Active recovery

Some teams do it, some rather less - but everyone knows it. A warm-down, or sometimes also called cool-down, is probably the most well-known active regeneration method in football. If there is a possibility, cycling and swimming can be added as active recovery methods. These have the additional benefit of addressing other muscle groups compared to a warm-down jog and thus preventing some monotony of movement. But no matter which measure is chosen at the end - it should be done at low intensity for a max of 30 minutes. This is the only way to accelerate lactate degradation. All these methods lead to the maintenance of blood circulation, which can contribute to an improved recovery.

Massages

Massages are among the most commonly used recovery methods. Different techniques are usually used between 10-30 minutes and should lead to a rapid recovery of performance in different parts of the body [5].

Similar to active recovery, massages are designed to increase blood circulation and thus positively affect lactate degradation, as well as the recovery and repair of damaged tissue. This can also help to reduce the loss in performance caused by sore muscles in the days after an intensive workout. Massages can also relieve muscular tension and inhibit the production of pro-inflammatory proteins. However, this effect has not yet been clearly shown in studies. On the other hand, the psychological effect of massages and improved well-being is scientifically proven [3]. Nevertheless, massages should only be performed by trained therapists, as too much pressure on the tissue can lead to further damage to the muscles and connective tissue. These damages can even go beyond the micro injuries occurring during training [4].

Conclusion

The scientific evidence on the use and effect of regeneration measures is not yet sufficient, especially when considering how frequent these methods are already used. So far, the many influencing factors, such as the previous exposure, duration of regenerative measures, time interval between loads and many other factors, have not yet been sufficiently studied to establish a general recommendation for athletes. Nevertheless, soccer players and other athletes should continue to use the regeneration measures that they find pleasant [3]. This means for coaches that methods for recovery of the players should take place individually and should be considered in the session planning.

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Sources:
[1] Nédélec, M. et al (2013). Recovery in soccer: Part II-recovery strategies.
[2] https://www.welt.de/gesundheit/article13509963/Gesund-werden-bei-Minus-110-Grad-Celsius.html
[3] Meyer, T. et al (2016). Regenerationsmanagement im Spitzensport. '
[4] Arkko, P. J. et al (1983). Effects of whole body massage on serum protein and hormone concentrations, enzyme activities and haematological parameters.
[5] Weerapong, P. (2005). The Mechanisms of Massage and Effects on Performance, Muscle Recovery and Injury Prevention.

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