Rehabilitation therapies for AFL Football
Round 1 and/or 2 is here for local footy and one of the main topics for a sport scientist or strength and conditioning coach is rehab, and how to do it. This is just going to be a short blog on how an amateur, semi-professional or local club can enhance their recovery protocols. This is an extremely important part of weekly performance, which we have in AFL football. It assists athletes in being more prepared for a Tuesday and Thursday night training session, allowing better performance at training and readiness for the weekend's match.
This blog post is not going to delve into the recovery practices for various methods, but outline how a week at local, amateur or semi-professional football clubs might look, or how they can improve their weekly schedule.
Some things that happen at local footy after a training session or match:
Ice or Ice baths, potentially.
This is quite common practice when it comes to amateur or local football. At the semi-elite level practices may change and athletes take things more seriously and incorporate further recovery strategies into their routine.
There is nothing wrong with static stretching post-game, as it allows athletes to compose themselves, lower their heart rate and reflect on the game. However, it isn’t the most effective method when it comes to rehabilitation. It is effective when used for flexibility and increasing range of motion of joints when done properly as its own session, but that is very rarely done post-match.
Some Methods of recovery used in Team Sports, seen at amateur or sub-elite level:
Active recovery (jogging, walking etc)
Water therapy (pool or beach recovery, hot/cold baths)
Static stretching (mentioned above)
The most effective methods of recovery:
There will be other blog posts to come, which will go into more detail about the benefits of sleep, nutrition and hydration.
This does not mean you should only focus on these 3 aspects, but it should be the focal point of your recovery protocols. The other measures are definitely useful and can play a part in recovery, especially if the resources are available!
A common question - So what should we do after a game, and before our training session on Tuesday?
The below is going to outline, very briefly, what should/can take place following a match.
1. Hydration and Nutrition.
§ Water/electrolyte intake is crucial for replacing lost fluids during a match.
§ 1.5 x kilograms lost. If you lost 1kg during the match, you should replace that fluid with 1.5L of water and/or electrolytes (Hydralyte, Gatorade, Powerade etc.)
§ Within 30 minutes post-match is the ideal time to start eating.
§ Snack or a light meal, with nutritional value. Preferably food richer in carbohydrates and protein. For specific advice – see a qualified nutritionist or dietician.
Other than sleep, this is arguably the most important part of your recovery for the week. It allows the body to refuel and replace what has been lost during the match, returning your body back to baseline levels.
Sleep is the most beneficial form of recovery and recuperation. We won’t go into the specifics of this, as there is another blog post to come on this topic, however, this is the most beneficial and important part of the recovery process. Sleep releases human growth hormone (HGH), which assists in muscle repair, and therefore aiding in recovery.
*See future blog posts for more information.
Match day +1 (1-day post-match)
Another important timeframe in the recovery process. Low-level activity should be completed, such as walking, very light jogging, swimming etc.
This where active recovery, beach or pool sessions, stretching and foam rolling are useful. Active recovery increases bloody flow and assists in getting rid of any by-products, helping to reduce soreness levels over the coming days.
Match day + 2 (2-days post-match)
Another good opportunity for active recovery, however, the intensity will be slightly higher. Water-based therapy is still an option here, however, this should be where a more field-based recovery takes place. ~2-3km of jogging, running and some skill work will suffice. 2 days post-match is usually where athletes will introduce their strength training for the week, so this should also take place on Monday and/or Tuesday following a Saturday match.
Training Sessions (Tuesday & Thursday)
Depending on the club, the first training night for the week will be either a Monday or Tuesday evening. In this instance, we will refer to a Tuesday night session and what could potentially take place.
A thorough warm-up should be completed (~10-15mins), to make sure everyone who has played on the weekend is ready, especially given soreness may still be present. Usually, the intensity of this session will not be too high, and conditioning will not be prescribed. However, drills that are prescribed should still be done to proper capacity, and athletes shouldn’t be labouring through. This leads into a Thursday night training session, usually, 2 days before a match (match day -2), where the intensity should be lifted and athletes feeling ready and prepared for the weekend.
The reason behind this type of programming:
- The goal is to have athletes feeling as close to 100% as possible for each match day.
o If conditioning is prescribed or training loads are too high, especially on a Tuesday night, soreness may be prolonged, not giving athletes the best chance to perform.
o We do not want to prolong any soreness.