Intense sports season? 5 tips for recovery

sports-recoveryTaylor is an ambitious, three-sport, high-school senior, who plays on Wayland High School’s soccer, basketball and lacrosse teams. In addition to mastering shooting the ball, defending the hoop and cradling the lacrosse stick, Taylor is learning about the science of injury prevention.

Taylor tore her anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in the fall of 2013. Six months after surgery to repair her torn ACL, Taylor came to The Micheli Center for Sports Injury Prevention. Her evaluation showed she hadn’t built enough strength to return to play. But Taylor was eager to get back on the field and pushed herself to return to play.

It wasn’t long before she suffered a partial ACL tear in the same knee, and then, one year after her first ACL injury, she completely tore the same ACL.

Since then, Taylor has embraced injury prevention.

See how she fits these five sports recovery tips into her daily training.

Sports recovery: Hydrate

Taylor brings a full water bottle to school and refills it throughout the day. She also makes sure to drink water after practices and games.

The American College of Sports Medicine does not provide a one-size-fits-all recommendation for rehydration. Individual characteristics such as body weight, genetics and current fitness status influence how often an athlete sweats and loses water. Sweat rates vary from 0.5 to 2.0 liters per hour between individuals, sports and seasons.

The general guideline for fluid intake post exercise is to replace each pound of fluid lost with at least 16 ounces of fluid. This should be consumed over time rather than in one large amount. A helpful tool to assess your own hydration is to monitor urine color. Pale yellow implies proper hydration.

Sports recovery: Eat smart

Taylor used to go without eating after a workout. Now she’s equipped with a snack or protein shake to jumpstart her recovery after her workout.

Post-exercise food consumption replenishes energy stores, increases muscle quality and repairs any damage from the workout. Due to the protein breakdown and the depletion of carbohydrates during exercise, consuming both nutrients post exercise is crucial. Research studies suggest an athlete’s body will efficiently use these nutrients if consumed within the first 15-60 minutes after exercising.

Sports recovery: Stretch, relax and rebuild

Taylor uses a foam roller and does basic static stretches after games and practice.

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Foam rolling is a form of self-manual therapy that could help restore healthy tissue, aid in recovery and prepare the body for exercise again. The concept behind this tool is that by exerting force on muscles and fascia (the tissue surrounding muscle), the hardened tissue can be encouraged to relax. This could help improve range of motion and reduce the intensity of muscle fatigue, which typically is greatest 24-72 hours after intense activity.

Sports recovery: Sleep

Taylor didn’t realize she wasn’t getting enough sleep until her evaluation at The Micheli Center revealed she was averaging six to seven hours a night.

Exercise depletes energy and fluids and breaks down muscle. A lack of sleep decreases the production of carbohydrates stored for use during physical activity. Therefore, less sleep results in fatigue, low energy and poor performance and can lead to injuries. Some athletes try to prevent fatigue-related injury by going to bed early the night before a game.

The National Sleep Foundation recommends school-aged children (6-13 years old) receive nine to 11 hours of sleep per night, teenagers (14-17) receive eight to 10 hours and adults (18-64) receive seven to nine hours.

Sports recovery: Cross-train

To help offset a quick transition from one season to the next, Taylor takes a few days off after the completion of one season and then starts cross-training, such as biking, hiking or yoga.

Research indicates it’s OK to exercise following an intense season, provided it’s at a low intensity and in a different way, such as biking after soccer season or skating after basketball. Studies show low-intensity exercise promotes blood circulation within muscle, which speeds recovery.

Get an injury-prevention guide for your sport.