What’s more exciting than the World Cup? Nothing really but the EURO2012 does its best job to pick up the slack as 3 summers must pass between World Cups. EURO 2012 Tournament puts 16 of the best countries in Europe into one, fun filled, month long competition to be crowned THE champion of Europe. With it comes bragging rights, and the automatic draw into the next World Cup. I mean, who in Europe doesn’t want to spend a month in Brazil?!?!
However, before you even set foot on the pitch for your first game, you have to survive another “preseason”. I place quotation marks around preseason simply because, the majority of the players are coming off a 2 week holiday after a 10 month season, which may include up to 55 games for some teams and players. So why is it they must survive? It’s simple, international coaches often forget what their players have just completed. With added pressure to perform at a large tournament, coaches often push their players to be fit, to be sharp, and to be something that they’re physically not capable of doing. In doing so, they place a high risk of failure on their shoulders, often due to injuries from overtraining or improper preparation for the tournament.
Going back to my last blog, I noted the effects of playing without your starters or attempting to train without key players. How effective can a team truly be in a tournament as this without them? Take into consideration some smaller countries that have players coming from leagues across the world with different season schedules. Some teams will have players coming from the EPL/La Liga/Ligue 1 who have just completed a grueling 10 month season and then throw in some players coming from leagues such as the MLS who are in the middle of the season. Common sense says, “There has to be a different approach for training for acclimate the players.” However, this is not done and coaches tend to push their team into two-a-days, draining every ounce of energy that player has, in order to get them “fit” for the tournament run.
Luckily, the tournament is designed to give optimal rest in between games. A research study done by Raymond Verheijen, he shows the value of 3 days rest when compared to 2 days rest during a season. The results are quite interesting, so at least we can thank the tournament committee on providing 3 days in between fixtures. However, we as soccer players, coaches, enthusiasts, still know 3 days does not provide ample enough time to recover from or to treat injuries properly. Because of this, teams begin to rack up a number of injuries that can often have substantial effects to their team. Take a look at the current injury list for EURO 2012 and pay close attention to the number of muscular injuries. I see 19 of 44 or 43% of all injuries are muscular/soft tissue related and many are ruled out for the entire tournament. Granted, these types of injuries will occur at any level and with any amount of rest, but it’s tough to see a tournament scarred from this problem.
So the biggest question is, “How can we reduce the prevalence of soft tissue injuries in such a tournament?” If I had the exact answer or cure, I wouldn’t be doing this blog and I’d be on my own island off the coast of Dubai, with a good view of Real Madrid’s vacation resort. Unfortunately, I do not know the almighty answer; rather I can only provide suggestions on proper recovery.
With three days in between fixtures, recovery and preparation must maximize the player’s ability to be 100% for the next game. In order to do so, you must rest and be active. Wait, what?! Yes, I said it. Active recovery is aimed at getting the body moving to remove the waste products in the muscles. This can be achieved through various ways but the majority follows a simple model:
Game Day – Post Game
- Long Cool Down
- Cold Tubs/Ice immersions
- Recovery Nutrition (replace carbohydrates)
- Leg Compression Tights (new fad that’s research driven to improve venous return of blood to rid of lactic acid build up)
Post Game – Day 1
- Proper Nutrition throughout the day
- Re-Gen Session
- Light Jog 10-15 min
- Extensive stretching
- Light resistance training, body weight
- Pool workout (can be done instead of resistance training)
- Contrast Baths or Cold Tubs
Post Game – Day 2
- Proper nutrition throughout the day
- 1 hr to 1 hr 15 min session
- Cold Tubs
Post Game – Day 3 (Game Prep)
- Proper nutrition (carbohydrate loading)
- 45 min to 1 hr session
- Cold tubs
As stated before, this is a simple model which many teams may or may not follow. As I’ve found out being around the sport, cultural influences go a very long way. That to me, is one of the glories of soccer, you can learn so much from so many different backgrounds which can only enhance your knowledge base and allow you to adapt and develop your own method.
Derek Lawrance MS, ATC – I’m a lifelong soccer player/enthusiast who has managed to stay close to the game as possible by becoming a Certified Athletic Trainer through the National Athletic Trainer’s Association. I received my Bachelors of Science in Athletic Training at James Madison University (Go Dukes!) and my Master of Science in Exercise Science from Georgia Southern University (Go Eagles!). I worked for three and a half years at Elon University with their NCAA Men’s Division 1 soccer team and have since moved on continuing my career in as an Assistant Athletic Trainer in Major League Soccer (MLS) with CHIVAS USA (!Viva las Chivas!). Follow me: @dllawrance.