Athletes & Recovery
Competing, intense workouts, and extra conditioning helps athletes stay in shape. However, it’s important to supplement training with recovery in order to avoid preventable injuries.
Athletic Injuries are Synonymous with Sports
It doesn’t matter if you are collegiate athlete, professional athlete, or participate in sports for leisure, injuries coincide with athletics.
While some sports have higher risk of injury, overexertion or hyperextensions are common when doing a repetitive motion. Other times, tired or weak joints can promote injury.
Here are the most common athletic injuries:
- Sprains: Not a particularly serious injury but extremely common, a sprain is the stretching or tearing of ligaments. While any ligament can be sprained, the most common location is an ankle. Mild sprains are treated at-home with rest, ice, compression, and elevation. However, severe sprains can require surgery in order to repair a torn ligament.
- Knee Injury: While knee injuries could include a variety of diagnosis, this joint is often injured during physical activity. Anything that interferes with how the knee joint moves while can result in overstretching, or tearing muscles or tissues in the knee.
- Swollen muscles: While swelling is a natural reaction to help protect an injured part of the body, this can result in pain or discomfort.
- Achilles tendon rupture: Located on the back of the ankle, this thin tendon can break or rupture which leads to severe pain.
- Fracture: Broken bones are most common in sports such as football, basketball, rugby, and are also experienced by marathon runners.
- Dislocations: A dislocation happens when a bone is forced out of its socket, symptoms for this injury include pain and swelling.
Overuse, unbalanced training, and improper rehabilitation often leads to these common injuries among athletes. However, there are ways that athletes can take charge of their recovery, and work to prevent injury.
Benefits of Compression Therapy
Knowing that you are training and competing with risk of injury, there are things that can be done as a preventative measure or to promote recovery. By implementing a well rounded fitness plan with elements of strength, cardio, and flexibility training along with alternating exercise you can decrease your risk of injury. Also, taking the time to stretch and rest between workouts or training sessions will help your body recover, reducing injury risk.
However, many athletes are also adding compression therapy to their recovery routine. Basically, compression therapy is applying a “squeeze and release” method to a muscle group. Repetitive compression aids to reduce swelling as well as tissue damage because it increases blood flow to specific parts of the body.
It’s suggested that athletes of any age apply compression therapy for 10-30 minutes after a workout or training exercise to quickly deliver oxygen to muscle cells. In theory, this aids in athletic endurance and increases performance.
Here are additional benefits of compression as it relates to athletic recovery:
- Flushing lymphatic fluids and lactic acids which can cause pain
- Improving circulation
- Decrease recovery time
- Prevent muscle soreness
- Pain relief
- Increases flexibility
- Decreases fatigue
Cold Therapy Machine
Another way to recover is using a cold therapy machine or utilizing cryotherapy. The science and benefits behind cold therapy are similar to compression therapy. Cryotherapy aids in muscle soreness and decreases swelling.
Cold therapy restricts blood vessels, which decreases blood flow, which decreases muscle spasms, inflammation, soreness, and cramps.
While cold therapy provides great recovery benefits for athletes, there are also drawbacks. For example, ice baths are only an option at home or in a hotel if traveling. While in a stadium setting, it’s easy to locate ice to apply an ice pack to an injured area, but for athletes on the road or at a gym, ice isn’t always convenient.
This is why gel packs are a great solution to cryotherapy. This doesn’t require water or ice, which is messy, and allows for cold therapy from anywhere.
Cold and compression therapy work well for recovery separately, however combining the two methods together has further benefits. Studies find that when active compression is coupled with cold therapy, it results in increased blood flow, and decreased swelling, edema, and muscle spasms. Applying ice or cold to your injury also makes recovery less painful and more comfortable.
There are additional ways athletes can recover between workouts. Hydration is a main tool used to help athletes to recover. Dehydration causes muscles to not repair themselves. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends drinking 16 to 24 ounces of fluid per pound during a training session.
Foods also play a role in athletic recovery, eating healthy foods can keep athletes from being deprived of nutrients. In addition, minimize processed foods as well as alcohol and tobacco usage.
Leg Compression Therapy
Even with hydration and eating a well balanced diet, lactic acid buildup is common after an intense workout. Leg pain and tingling caused by lactic acid and is caused by muscle fatigue.
One way to combat the pain and discomfort associated with lactic acid buildup is to apply leg compression therapy. However, by participating in leg compression therapy for a half hour after a workout, many athletes can begin to feel a difference.
There are several options when shopping for leg compression devices. There are compression socks, which are typically made for long-term wear. There are also full leg compression sleeves that provide coverage from the foot, all the way up the leg.
However, PowerPlay makes portable, lightweight leg compression devices that also include cold packs to combine cryotherapy with compression. This makes it easy for athletes to recover at home, on the road, or the sidelines.