Recovery Strategies in Soccer

Dr. Raphael Villatore MD
Head of Medical Department
Al Dibba FC, United Arab Emirates

ISSPF Article

Understanding the balance between work & recovery is vitally important in order to maximise soccer performance & player success. The International Soccer Science & Performance Federation (ISSPF) brings together online some of the leading football science researchers, applied soccer science practitioners & football coaches to discuss the role of rest & recovery within the game.

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Recent years has seen an increased emphasis on recovery following bouts of heavy training or team sport competition, with many methods and strategies being discussed as possible means by which recovery & injury prevention can be progressed. Enhancing recovery and speeding up the process can significantly improve the soccer athlete performance based on the need to reproduce and peak more than once per week. Even though playing another high-intensity competitive match within fixture congestive periods, it is not uncommon at many levels of the game to have to play at least two or three times a week.

Full recovery is obviously very important…..but it is possible?

For those playing weekly, it is important to be fully recovered as quickly as possible to enable the footballer or soccer athlete to train more effectively and enhance the benefits of the training content and reduce the injury risk concurrently.

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When the focus is placed on maximizing performance and minimizing potential for injury or illness ….. there should be a number of specific objectives met in the recovery process:

  • Restoration of energy levels
  • Neuromuscular recovery
  • Muscle tissue repair
  • Reduction of muscle soreness
  • Psychological recovery

There is a limited amount of investigations into recovery methods & strategies used, but ISSPF faculty member & physiology expert Dr. Raphael Villatore MD has produced an intriguing lecture within highlighting current literature across a range of recovery topics in soccer.

Current research within the game to date covers some of the main issues listed below:

Warm-down or Active Recovery
Most serious athletes perform a warm-down or active recovery following the conclusion of intense exercise. The warm-down period generally varies with the level of the participant’s activity but ranges from 5 to 15 minutes. This is usually followed by self-selected stretching of the muscles used in training or competition.

The benefits of warm-down on muscle soreness and performance after 24–48 hours are not clear from current research. However, one research study compared immediate recovery procedures to next-day recovery training (25 minutes of pool exercise) and found no difference in recovery of muscle soreness, flexibility or power. As a result this may suggest that an individual preference would be apparent here when pushing recovery protocols.

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    Cold Water Immersion (CWI)

    The simplest and easiest method involves use of an ice bath (2–10°C). Although no specific protocol exists, in current practice the regimen commonly used involves the athlete standing waist deep in the ice bath for 5 minutes. This can be repeated two or three times with a short period out of the bath to help flush. The second common technique is the contrast bathing, alternating warm and cold baths for a minute each, repeated three or four times. Players invariably report that they believe these techniques help their recovery but some of this maybe psychological based on the unclear situation in the literature of muscle properties.

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      Soft Tissue Massage

      High-intensity training or match-play can cause increased muscle tone in both the resting and the contractile state. Muscle ‘tightness’ as its described by soccer athletes or football players particularly occur during periods of adaptation to increased volume and intensity of training loads.

      Repetitive microtrauma of these muscles may further compromises muscle function and flexibility, and muscle tissue may become less pliable. These problems can impair training and match-play preparation and as a result may lead to injury if not managed.


      soccer science & performance

      Deep Water Running

      Deep-water running involves ‘leg cycles’ or ‘running patterns’ in a deep side of a swimming pool whilst using a buoyancy vest. This technique is used to maintain fitness during recovery from lower limb injury, but it has also been advocated as part of a recovery program either immediately after the intense exercise, or competitive matches. Previous research has shown how a regimen of deep-water running for 3x consecutive days post-intense exercise reduced muscle soreness whilst appearing to speed up the restoration 48hrs after soccer matches.

      These are only a few of the suggested investigated research protocols surrounding recovery strategies in sport, however for further in-depth detail and more advice on these findings, ISSPF content & courses will highlight a lot more!

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        WHAT NOW?

        The demand for football science, sports science, athletic trainers, sport therapists, performance & coaching specialists in team sports is growing year upon year. Thousands of individuals are leaving university with a sport science degree, physio or therapy related qualification, however many of them asking the key question – What now? How do I get a job in football? What’s the next step? Which area of sport or football science & sports medicine do I want to specialise in?

        This is certainly an interesting question as progressing from completing a sporting, medical or therapy related degree to then working in professional football & trying to understanding all the key components, soft skills that come with jobs in football or careers within sport is complex.

        As a result, the bespoke courses developed by ISSPF Football Science & Coaching Faculty members are a way of further exposing learners, professional coaches, students, or other individuals interested in football science with a thirst to develop & upskill further.

        The link below will take you to the hugely popular & expertly designed ISSPF endorsed & University & Football Association accredited Soccer Science & Performance online sport science course, where you will be exposed to sports medicine & football science with a coaching science led research overview, and practical examples used by the game’s leading practitioners.


        Why is this course important?

        • Provides justification for the guiding of specific training methods, interventions & decision making processes within soccer
        • Highlights the practical application of modern, research based training methods & assessment tools
        • Provides an increased evidence & knowledge to understand key soccer science & performance processes across a range of coaching science topics
        • Discusses the most efficient training methods and detailed insights into developing player fitness alongside rehabilitation & training methodologies
        • Learn from industry experts in the area of football science, nutrition, sport science & performance training in team sports
        • Help maximise your decision making through a better understanding & appreciation of football or soccer science

        Who is this course for?

        • Individuals tasked with the responsibility for the training, preparation & coaching aspects of soccer players or team sports
        • Individuals with an interest in developing their knowledge in the training & development of individual soccer players or team sports



        Outline of the Soccer Science & Performance Course:

        Module 1: The demands of professional soccer: Physiological costs of the game
        Lecturer: Dr. Vasilis Kalapthorakos (Greece)
        Topic: Physiology

        Module 2: Developing Resilience in Soccer: Mental Skill Development
        Lecturer: Dr. Nikki Crawley (England)
        Topic: Psychology

        Module 3: Game model building & development: Reinterpreting Tactical Periodisation
        Lecturer: Dr. Alejandro Romero-Caballero (Spain)
        Topic: Training Methodology

        Module 4: Injury reduction strategies in professional soccer
        Lecturer: Dr. Patrick Orme (England)
        Topic: Injury Prevention

        Module 5: Leadership and Culture for High Performance Soccer
        Lecturer: Maximillian Lankheit (Germany)
        Topic: Psychology

        Module 6: Current trends in leading European soccer teams: In-Possession
        Lecturer: Chris Meek (England)
        Topic: Performance Analysis

        Module 7: Soccer nutrition & the role of the nutritionist
        Lecturer: Matthew Jones (England)
        Topic: Nutrition

        Module 8: Competitive soccer training microcycle: Structure & justification
        Lecturer: Dr. Manuel Segovia (Spain)
        Topic: Training Methodology




        ·         How can you prevent injuries in soccer?
        ·         What is the science of football?
        ·         How do you train for soccer?
        ·         How do I improve my football team?
        ·         What are the main causes of soccer injuries?
        ·         Where can I get football training sessions?


        All these frequently asked questions will be answered & further detailed information provided within our ISSPF online injury prevention & return to play course – we look forward to seeing you there!


        What is Soccer Science & Performance?

        • Soccer coaches, soccer scientists & research driven practitioners combining soccer related studies & findings together to maximise their working & coaching efficiency
        • Bringing together some of the latest scientific principles, knowledge & practical applications surrounding performance within a soccer specific environment
        • The integration of research driven & coaching principles that enable key individuals within the game to maximise the performance of players
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