After an intense game warming down is an important step that can often be overlooked. It’s as important as warming up and proper technique.
Let’s start with a cool down for 10 mins immediately after your match or training. During cool down monitor your heart rate and maintain at 120-140 beats per min (BPM) this is an optimal heart rate for your body to remove any built up lactic acid from your system. Alternate shuttle runs, arm and leg swings to maintain your optimal lactic recovery. Example, if your heart rate is 160 BPM then start with arm swings to allow your heart rate to slow. If your heart rate is low, 100 BPM, use shuttle runs to bring it up to between 120-140 bpm. Be game specific and alternate what you do to cool down all major muscle groups. After your cool down try lying on your back with your legs up on a wall for 5-10 mins, this can help reduce any swelling, bruising, oedema and lactic acid to drain from your legs after your game. This also helps relax your hamstrings which come under a lot of stress during a match. This is also a good time to ice or stretch any areas of concern.
Stretching before a game or training is recommended to loosen tight muscles and prepare to play. You should limit the duration of stretches to around 10-20 seconds. Holding stretches for long periods, 1-2 minutes, deactivate muscles (makes them slow to respond) and can take them 30 minutes or more to get back up to speed. Flexibility training is best done after or as part of your normal training routine or as homework between training sessions. To increase flexibility you should be holding a range of stretches for 30-120 seconds 2-3 times per stretch.
Icing is often underrated as a recovery technique. Coach and managers should have ice available at all times. Ice all soft tissue injuries, sprains or strains (muscles, tendons or ligaments), if you have pulled or twisted something ice immediately. A bigger or heavier injury are easily identified by the amount of pain. The bigger the injury the sooner and longer the ice should be held to the area. 10 minutes of icing for light twinges and tweaks. 10-20 minutes for heavier injuries with repeated application. Twisted ankles and knees or pulled hamstring and calves etc.. will need more icing, 10 mins on and 5 mins off, repeat as many times as necessary till you feel the cold seeping deep into the muscles. For joint sprains the ice should feel as cold to the skin on the affected area as it does to an unaffected area. Caution – do not place ice directly on the skin with this method, place ice over t-shirt or towel to avoid ice burn. And of course if the pain feels bad see a physician, remember it’s only a game!