The Science of Recovery: How Athletes Recuperate After Competition

Going through physical match play can wear an athlete’s body down. In order to prevent injury risks, they must take all of the necessary steps to recover and recuperate.

Lauren Kelly works on a daily basis with student-athletes in UC’s athletic department. As an assistant director of olympic sports performance, she works with the men’s and women’s swim and dive teams as well as the men’s and women’s track and field teams. She and her team work closely with athletic trainers and physical therapists in the athletic department to optimize recovery. Here are some of the things she and her team use for student-athletes to help them recover after competition.

• As a strength and conditioning professional, Lauren makes sure to prioritize workouts to ensure athletes won’t purposefully become over trained and will be prepared for competition. Results of over-training the body could be additional body stress and higher risk for injuries.

• The athletic training room at UC has numerous modalities for student-athletes to use. Some of these modalities include NormaTec leg recovery systems, hot and cold immersion pools and a float tank.

• Down in the weight room, athletes have access to foam rollers and bands for recovery. The strength and conditioning team also has an array of HyperIce products, such as HyperVolt, foam rollers and massage balls, which student-athletes can use. Some teams may also have access to an Omegawave that allows Lauren and her team to customize recovery for each athlete.

• In addition, there is an emphasis on the importance of nutrition during recovery. Protein shakes are great for recovery, especially after participating in an endurance sport, because they quickly provide important nutrients like protein. The student-athletes at UC particularly enjoy cherry juice as well, another great recovery drink. Both of these items are readily available to student-athletes after competition.

• Depending on the sport, after competition, Lauren and her colleagues may take student-athletes through a “cool down” to allow their heart rates to decrease and promote parasympathetic activity.

Every sport is different and each strength coach customizes the recovery for each team. While every sport may have its own steps of recovery, these are important for every athlete to remember. If they do these things, they’ll ensure that they’re ready for the next match.

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