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The Irish Society of Chartered Physiotherapists

The Treatment Table by Emmett Hartigan

This season, our physios at Galway Bay Physio will try to give some insight and knowledge into the most common issues surrounding football players of all levels in terms of injuries and most importantly how to avoid them.

The first point, as I’m sure we’re all well aware, is that we need to warm up. We’ve all been told it, but it’s important to understand the reasoning behind it. The two main objectives are: to gradually raise the heart rate; to recruit more muscle and tendon fibres to activate.

Raising the heart rate gradually allows the heart muscle to pump blood really effectively around the body, including to and from our lungs. Deep breathing helps remove acid from our blood system (by blowing off carbon dioxide which is acidic in nature). The acid that builds up in our muscles is lactic acid and you’ll be familiar with this as it is the burning sensation we get in our muscles as you exercise hard. The more air we can exchange through our breathing, the quicker we can reduce the levels of lactic acid in our muscles and recover to run again. Allowing the heart rate to increase gradually, helps this process be more efficient for the more difficult part of your training session.

The second purpose is to increase  blood flow to muscles and tendons and to activate/recruit as many muscle and tendon fibres as possible. By recruiting as much muscle and tendon fibres as you can in the warm up you are dispersing the load and work that muscles do over a greater area. This will reduce the likelihood of a muscular or tendinous injury. If we don’t recruit as many muscle groups as possible, then when we do large explosive movements (when we sprint for example), some areas will do most of the work and are at risk of breaking down or tearing.

The other factor to be considered is to fire up the nervous system to improve the reaction times of the muscles. This allows the body to react quicker (when changing direction suddenly for example) and so reduces the risk of ‘rolling’ and spraining an ankle.

So try to make sure your warm ups are thorough. They should work every muscle group you’ll use in your session. They should be varied and fun, with lots of change of direction movements and  balance/reaction work. They should always begin with lower intensity and build as the warm up progresses.

Let’s hope this bit of knowledge will improve your understanding of and motivation to carry out good warm ups and reduce the risk of injury. However, if the worst should happen, please get in touch by calling us on 091 569 706 or book online at Galway Bay Physiotherapy and we’ll get you back to full health.

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