Ready for State? Tips from a Sports Physical Therapist for High School Soccer Players in the Final Month

Hey High School Soccer Stars,

As the final month of the season approaches, you’re likely feeling a mix of excitement and fatigue. This is the crucial moment where championships are won and dreams are realized. But to ensure you finish the season strong and avoid any last-minute setbacks, it’s essential to focus on your physical well-being. As a sports physical therapist, I’m here to provide you with some valuable tips to excel in these critical weeks.

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1. Listen to your body

Throughout the season, you’ve pushed your limits, but now it’s time to be mindful of any little niggles or discomfort. Don’t ignore them! Addressing minor issues promptly can prevent them from escalating into major injuries.

Recognizing Signs of Overtraining and Injury Risks

While pushing yourself to the limit is commendable, it’s essential to recognize the signs of overtraining and potential injury risks. High school soccer players, in particular, are susceptible to certain common injuries due to the nature of the sport. Here are some signs to watch out for:

  1. Persistent Fatigue: Feeling constantly tired or fatigued, despite adequate rest, may indicate overtraining. Listen to your body and prioritize rest when needed.
  2. Decreased Performance: If you notice a sudden decline in your performance, such as slower running times or reduced agility, it could be a sign of overtraining or an underlying injury.
  3. Increased Irritability: Overtraining can affect not only your physical but also your mental well-being. If you find yourself becoming more irritable, anxious, or moody, it may be time to reassess your training load.
  4. Persistent Muscle Soreness: While some muscle soreness is normal after intense workouts, persistent or worsening soreness could indicate overuse or potential injury. Pay attention to any lingering discomfort and address it promptly.
  5. Lack of Motivation: If you’re experiencing a sudden lack of motivation or enthusiasm for training, it could be your body’s way of signaling that it needs a break.

Common injuries among high school soccer players include:

  • Ankle Sprains: Due to the frequent changes in direction and sudden stops and starts involved in soccer.
  • Knee Injuries: Including ACL tears, meniscus tears, and patellar tendinitis, often caused by rapid changes in direction, muscular weakness (often hip strength plays a big role), and/or improper landing techniques.
  • Hamstring Strains: Resulting from overstretching or tearing of the hamstring muscles, commonly due to inadequate warm-up, overtraining, or an underlining imbalance/ compensation. 
  • Groin Strains: Caused by sudden movements or overuse of the groin muscles, which are essential for agility and kicking movements.

If you experience any persistent pain or discomfort, don’t hesitate to seek guidance from a healthcare professional or physical therapist. 

Pro Tip: Ask us about our sports performance or physical therapy sessions here at Runners’ Edge Alaska. Sometimes, all you need is a little tune-up to get back on the pitch feeling your best!

2. Incorporate Active Recovery

Recovery is just as important as training. Make sure to include active recovery sessions in your weekly schedule. This can involve low-impact activities like swimming, cycling, or yoga to promote muscle relaxation and improve flexibility. These sessions aid in reducing muscle soreness and enhancing overall recovery, ensuring you’re ready to perform at your best when it matters most.

Pro Tip: Sports massages (different than a therapeutic massage!) is a great way to alleviate muscle tension. 

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3. Shift Your Training Focus

As the season approaches an end, high-intensity training typically starts to ease. High-level soccer teams use the weeks leading up to a big tournament to  to fine-tune their skills and address any weaknesses in their game, vs going ham in the gym. This can include a focus on ball skills, play strategies, and mental readiness. Work with your coaches to develop targeted drills and exercises that address areas such as ball control, agility, and tactical awareness. Repetition is key to mastery, so dedicate time to practice these skills consistently.

4. Implement Proper Nutrition Strategies

Implement Proper Nutrition Strategies: Your performance on the field is greatly influenced by what you eat off the field. As the season reaches its peak, prioritize nutrition to fuel your body optimally. Aim for a balanced diet rich in lean proteins, complex carbohydrates, healthy fats, and plenty of fruits and vegetables. Stay hydrated by drinking water throughout the day, especially before, during, and after training sessions and matches. 

Pro Tip: Too busy to focus on nutrition with all those after school activities? Give protein powder a try! We LOVE Thorne’s Whey Protein Isolate for its unmatched ability to provide a quick and efficient fuel source. Its high-quality protein content not only supports muscle recovery and growth but also offers a convenient solution for replenishing energy levels after intense workouts. With its fast absorption rate, Thorne’s Whey Protein Isolate is perfect for busy athletes looking to refuel without any unnecessary delays. Plus, its delicious! Just be sure to check the ingredients if you have any food intolerances or allergies.

thorne whey protein

5. Prioritize Rest and Recovery

  1. With the intensity ramping up, adequate rest becomes paramount. Ensure you’re getting enough sleep each night (at least 8 hours!) to support recovery and optimize performance. Establish a pre-bedtime routine to unwind and relax, avoiding screens and stimulating activities that can interfere with sleep quality. We know you want to check your Instagram and TikTok before bed, but trust us, those Z’s will pay off! Additionally, consider incorporating regular rest days into your schedule to allow your body to recharge and prevent burnout.

Pro Tip: We know this time of year is a busy one for teen athletes. If you’re muscles are sore and you need to recover quickly, give us a call to schedule a NormaTec Recovery Room session. Compression therapy is a proven way to revive your muscles quickly! 

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6. Dream it and DO IT!

In the heat of competition, mental strength plays just as big of a role as physical strength. It sounds hokey, but research supports the phrase, “if you can dream it, you can do it.” Practicing visualization techniques to mentally prepare for upcoming matches and envision success on the field can actually make a difference! Check out this article published in New York Times on Olympic athletes who use visualization training as a key component in preparing for competition. Stay positive, stay focused, and trust in the hard work you’ve put in throughout the season. Believe in yourselves and your teammates, and you’ll be unstoppable.

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Conclusion

As you enter the final stretch of the season, remember that every decision you make off the field contributes to your success on it. By prioritizing your physical health, implementing targeted training techniques, and fueling your body with proper nutrition, you’ll position yourself, and your team for success.

So lace up those cleats, give it your all, and leave everything on the field. Your hard work and dedication will pay off, and who knows, you might just be lifting that championship trophy at the end of the season. Keep pushing, keep believing, and finish strong! 

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