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Footy and netball season is almost here again, and while most of the pre-season work is done, here are a few tips to turn the pre-season slog into a successful start to matches.

 

Build into it

While it would be ideal to have had three months of regular, steady fitness work before the season, sometimes that just doesn’t happen. If that sounds like you, just about the worst thing to do is to try to ‘catch up’ on the training you have missed. Going from not much exercise to high volume or high intensity training is the most common cause of injuries such as stress fractures, tendon problems and joint pain. Studies from the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) show that big changes in workload also lead to an increased risk of illness. While it might not seem like the ‘team thing’, you’re probably better off starting the season underdone, and building your fitness over the season. Just in time for finals!

 

Warm up and cool down

It’s also important to build into each training session to prevent injuries like muscle strains. A steady warm-up gets everything moving and starts to ‘prime’ the neuromuscular system for the movements required for sport. A good example of warm-up drills is the FootyFirst program (www.aflcommunityclub.com.au/index.php?id=906), or the Netball Australia KNEE program (www.knee.netball.com.au), both of which have been shown to decrease the rate of lower limb and knee injuries when done consistently.

 

Keep hydrated and fuelled

It’s not quite winter yet, so remember to drink enough water in these warm autumn afternoons. Being a few percent dehydrated also increases your risk of injury and decreases your performance. Refuelling after training is one of the key ways to ensure a good recovery: some good, low-fat carbohydrates (e.g. a sandwich or muffin, or some sports drink) in the first 30 minutes after hard exercise gets some energy into you to help your body repair and recover. KFC and a coke is NOT a good recovery fuel!

 

Don’t ignore the niggles

If you have a twinge that isn’t going away with a bit of rest and ice, get it looked at by a trainer, physio or doctor. Many injuries start as something just a bit annoying, and some simple treatment can fix it, but if ignored can worsen to be something that makes you miss months of sport. It might not need a scan or some treatment…but it might.

 

Have fun!

Don’t forget that sport is meant to be fun! Sure, try your best on the track or on the court, but no-one enjoys playing against, or with, someone with white-line fever. And if you feel like you’re not enjoying your sport like you should, or you’re feeling sad, or anxious, or worried, or angry… talk to someone. If you think a team-mate is not coping, don’t be afraid to ask, “Are You OK”.

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