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Staying Healthy and in Optimal Performance: Focusing on Footballers

13:49:23 02.06.2016 posted by at 13:49:23 02.06.2016
Staying Healthy and in Optimal Performance: Focusing on Footballers
According to the W.H.O, Health is defined as the complete state of physical, mental and social wellbeing of an individual and not merely the absence of disease or injury. As a Sports Physiotherapists, I have had a lot of questions from players who want to know what supplement to take to improve their performance and obtain an optimal state of health. Generally, sportsmen and particularly footballers are often at more advantage of being in a better state of health than most individuals because of the high level of exercise and training that forms their daily routine. However, in comparison to footballers in the foreign scene, most of those on the local scene usually cannot boast of the same soundness. This may be attributed to a few factors such as availability of health information to players, availability of medical attention and facilities, poor habits, training kits and facilities, inadequate remuneration and in some cases poor administration.
The game of football is one of the biggest in the world. It is also one of the toughest, with the play being on for 45minutes straight without the breaks which characterize most of the other sports. For a total of 90 minutes, the player performs frequent sprints, jumps, kicks, sharp turns and swift thinking. Physiologically, it involves a high level of muscular, cardiovascular and mental endurance and alertness.
Due to the demands of the game, to stay in optimal performance, the successful footballer should possess a good knowledge of the following:
  1. Adequate hydration and proper Nutrition.
  2. Injury prevention strategies FIFA 11 + PROGRAMME
  3. Importance of Rest
Adequate Hydration and Proper Nutrition:
Hard training and matches which are typical for footballers place heavy stress on the body, but good food choices reduces risk of harm. Adequate intakes of energy, protein, iron, copper, manganese, magnesium, selenium, sodium, zinc, calcium, vitamins A, C, E, and B12 are particularly important to health and performance. While some players erroneously believe they can only get the best of these from artificial tablets, these nutrients as well as others are best obtained from varied diets based on foods such as vegetables, fruits, beans, legumes, grains, lean meats, fish, dairy products and unsaturated oils.  Dietary surveys have shown that players are able to meet recommended intake for carbohydrates, proteins, vitamins, and minerals by eating everyday foods. Only those who have been confirmed as lacking one vitamin or the other by their physician should seek to use artificial supplements.
The most important fuel for exercise is carbohydrate; it supplies the muscles and the brain with the glycaemia energy needed to meet the stress of training and competition. However, the body can only store enough to last for one day of hard training. This implies that every player eating and drinking plan must provide enough carbohydrate to fuel the training program and optimize recovery of muscle glycogen between workouts. An inadequate carbohydrate diet will lead to early fatigue and possible substitution before the end of the game. Examples of carbohydrates with moderate to high glycaemia index rate are rice, bread, potatoes and cereals.
Protein has always been considered a key nutrient for sporting success by athletes of all ages over the years. This is true because it plays a key role in the physiological adaptations that occur in response to training and games. Foods rich in protein are important for building and repairing muscles. Amino acids (units of protein) are the building blocks for manufacture of new tissue, hormones and enzymes that regulate metabolism. Dietary surveys have also shown that players who eat enough variety of foods do not need additional proteins supplements. A well chosen vegetarian diet can easily meet protein needs. The most important factor is the timing of protein consumption rather than the amount consumed. Most fruits and vegetables are the primary sources of rich antioxidants, vitamins and minerals needed. Colours of many fruits are also a sign of high content of various vitamins and antioxidants. Players should aim to fill their plates with highly coloured fruits to ensure a good intake. There is a slogan tagged, “Eating a rainbow”. Examples of such fruits and vegetables are:  White bananas, onions, Green broccoli, lettuce, green grapes, green apples, blue/purple plum, raisins, purple grapes, red tomatoes, watermelon, red apples, berries, orange, carrots, apricots, peaches , mangoes.
In preparing for competitions, strategies such as carbo-loading and hydration strategies are most important. Increasing carbohydrate intake a few days before the game while decreasing the training intensity and duration helps achieve high level of glycogen store needed for optimal performance during the game. This is known as carbo-loading.
Developing the best hydration strategy is also key to optimal performance; strategies must be developed depending on the weather. During hot weather, excessive sweating may occur. This is usually seen by formation of salt rings on player’s jerseys. Rehydration at this stage would require addition of a little amount of salt in water. Sports drinks are also very essential. And even in cold weather, it is also important to drink lots of fluids.
The game of football is so important and has such an impact on the world that we are sure of its fellowship in every country in the world and amongst people of all ages, creed and tribe. Little wonder then, that a player’s injury is of great interest to fans, stakeholders and the players themselves.
Injury Prevention Strategies:
In 2003, FMARC (FIFA- Medical and Assessment Research Centre), after extensive research, developed a complete warm up programme called the 11+ in order to reduce injuries among male and female football players. Research has shown that teams who have embraced it have had 30-50 percent less injury. It is advised that the 11+ be performed at the start of training sessions at least twice a week. This will further condition the body for optimal performance of the player because the 11+ takes care of the muscular, cardiovascular and mental needs required to prepare a player for the game of football. The most important thing with the 11+ programme is the correct application of the 11+ technique.
The 11+ program is recommended by FIFA for all football teams. It has 3 Parts and a total of 25 exercises which should be performed in specified sequence.
Part 1 – Running exercises at a slow speed combined with active stretching and controlled partner contacts.
Part 2 – Six sets of exercises which focus on improving the core, leg strength, balance, ply metrics and agility
Part 3 – Running exercises at moderate and high speed combined with planting and cutting movements.
The Importance of rest cannot be over emphasized. Players must ensure they have adequate rest and sleep in order for their bodies to recover appropriately after their training sessions and games.
For the player who wants to stay in health and optimal performance, it is important to stay away from drugs. Some supplements that are not prescribed may contain harmful substances which may not be placed on the labels, hence proper nutrition, hydration, warm up and rest are the best keys to optimal health and performance.
The game of football is a very important one to all Nigerians. Putting these things to practice will definitely improve the standard of our football.
Ojo Temilade
(Sports Physiotherapists)                           
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