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The Importance of Recovery Time for Athletes

Written by Joshua Alpert, MD on April 13, 2015

As the NCAA Tournament comes to a close tonight and the spring sport season begins, it’s important for athletes to understand that one of the main ways to avoid injury in the future is learning how to recover properly after workouts and games, especially when there is a quick turnaround before the next activity.

Not receiving enough rest or having inadequate recovery after a sporting event predisposes an athlete to a higher risk of future injury.

Here are some tips on how to recover well and decrease the risk of future injury:

  • Stretching/warm Up – Proper stretching not only before, but after workouts increases blood flow to the muscles, loosens up any tight muscles and enhances flexibility which can help prevent injury.
  • Hydration – It is important to drink water before, during and after a workout. Be careful of consuming too many sugary sports drinks and instead focus on water.
  • Change it up – If possible, changing the type of workout or activity by decreasing the intensity, duration, or frequency of workouts. Go from a hard to an easy workout schedule and cross-training can help maintain fitness levels while easing into recovery.
  • RICE – This acronym stands for Rest, ice, compression and elevation. It is the standard to help sore muscles, decrease swelling and recover faster. Taking a day off between workouts is also advisable.
  • NSAIDS – Anti-inflammatory medications such as Ibuprofen, Advil or Aleve can help to decrease inflammation, soreness, muscle aches and pain before and after activity.
  • Know your limits – Do not do any activities with pain. Any sport or exercise performed while in pain, can alter your mechanics and increases the risk for further injury to the sore body part or to another body part as you overcompensate.
  • Massage/physical therapy – Physical therapy and massage therapy after a workout or sporting event can help stretch out muscles, enhance flexibility, decrease soreness, and enhance the recovery process.
  • Technique – Learning the correct workout technique makes a difference. Talk to a coach, athletic trainer, physical therapist or personal trainer about proper technique right away. This can decrease the risk of injury making recovery much easier.

In athletes looking to make viable improvements in their training, many sports medicine physicians advocate the 10-percent rule. This basically means do not increase your training more than 10 percent per week.

Following this advice allows your muscles, ligaments and bones the appropriate amount of time for recovery and remodeling. Also, remember the importance of at least a 15-minute warmup and cool down before and after activity.

Contact your healthcare provider if your injuries are not improving.

Schedule an Appointment with Dr. Alpert