Footy is one of Australia’s favourite games, but it is also one of the hardest games in the world on the body. This is why knowing how to avoid injury is a vital part of playing the sport. Below are tips from a physio on how to avoid injuries this footy season:
Ease into training at the start of the season
Footy is an intensely physical game, requiring strength, flexibility and serious cardiovascular endurance, which is why going full-tilt straight out of the off-season is a really bad idea. If you want to avoid injury it is important to start slowly, working on activating your body’s muscles and warming up as thoroughly as you can. Only once your body is in peak physical condition again should you go your hardest.
Warm-up before training and games
It is hard to understate the importance of warming up properly before training or a game, which is one of the best ways to prepare your body and reduce your chance of injury. Start your warm-up with a light jog, slowly building up the intensity until your heart rate is raised to 160 bpm. Once your body is warm you should perform stretches for all main muscle groups.
While many players stop here it is important to take it one step further and perform football-specific exercises, first mimicking the actions that you will perform in the game, such as passing, kicking, jumping and squatting all without a ball. Once your body gets used to the motions you should introduce the ball and perform functional exercises mirroring the activities of the game.
Train all three planes of movement
There are three planes of motion in footy:
- Forward and back (sagittal plane)
- Side to side (frontal plane)
- Twisting movements (transverse plane)
One of the most common causes of injury in footy is players focusing heavily on one of the planes (most often the sagittal plane) and doing little work to strengthen the movement in the others. That is why it is important to pick strengthening and stretching exercises that address imbalances in all three planes of motion.
Be aware of the need to recover
Recovery shouldn’t just be something that is done after an injury occurs but rather something that is done on a continuous basis during and after exercise.
During exercise you should:
- Stretch when your muscles feel tight. This will help lengthen your muscle’s fibres and make them more pliable, particularly during warm-up when you are priming your body for the rigours of the game.
- Wear supportive equipment. If you have an existing injury make sure you wear supportive clothing or equipment to reduce the chance of re-injury. You might also wear compression clothing to help improve circulation and drain away toxins in the muscles.
- Ice if you feel pain. Any time you feel pain or believe you have injured yourself you should apply ice as quickly as possible to help reduce swelling.
After exercise you should:
- Provide your body with fuel within half an hour of finishing a match or training session. A healthy snack with protein and carbohydrates is your best option.
- Eat a full meal packed with nutrients within two hours. Focus on providing your body with plenty of fruit, veg, protein and healthy carbs.
- Try an ice bath after the game. Ten minutes at ten degrees will help reduce aches and pain throughout the body.
- Get plenty of sleep. Sleep at least eight hours and avoid any stimulants or alcohol before bed.