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Tips for Winter Sport

In order to succeed this winter sport season, you need to be prepared. In this blog we talk about some of the different ways you can get the most out of your body, while reducing your risk of injury.

Whether it’s soccer, netball, Aussie rules, hockey or rugby league, warm-ups can help reduce the risk of injury and improve performance (Leppänen, Aaltonen, Parkkari, Heinonen & Kujala, 2013). A warm-up typically includes a light bout of cardiovascular exercise, some stretches, high-intensity efforts like sprints and sport-specific drills. Dynamic stretching is preferred to static stretching in the warm-up (Herbert & Gabriel, 2002; Behm, Blazevich, Kay & McHugh, 2016).
Teams are now also incorporating ‘activation’ or ‘mobility’ drills within their warm-ups. This helps activate key neuromuscular patterns relevant to the sport and is an effective way to maximise the performance of the athlete from the very start of the match (Herman, Barton, Malliaras & Morrissey, 2012).

While often overlooked, tactical preparation is another key part of the warm up and includes the coach announcing the starting line-up and formation, key points for the match and intended positional changes. This ‘mental warm-up’ is really important to ensure the athlete is adequately prepared for sporting competition and is focused on the game at hand (Cohn, 1990).

Over recent years sporting organisations have developed a number of injury prevention programs that your team can follow.  For football, FIFA have developed an injury prevention program called ‘FIFA11+’ which looks at strength, balance and jumping/landing ability. This program was specifically designed for footballers and has been shown to be an effective tool in reducing football related injuries (Thorborg et al., 2017).
A number of other programs exist for other sports including the KNEE program for netball, RugbySmart for Rugby Union and FootyFirst for AFL. Non-sport specific programs include the Prevent Injury Enhance Performance (PEP) program designed to replace the traditional 20 minute warm-up
If your team doesn’t have a program in place, or the coach would rather spend time on other things, you can do strength work individually. Strength training is an effective way to prevent lower extremity injuries (Leppänen et al., 2013) but should be done under the supervision of a qualified health professional to reduce injury risk.
Post-match, nutrition and sleep are two forms of recovery that are particularly important. Good nutrition should be a regular habit following the usual guidelines of 5 serves of vegetables and 2 serves of fruit per day.
From an athletic scheduling perspective, consider a meal high in complex carbohydrates the night before performance. This will ensure the body has enough good quality fuel to keep you going well into the final stages of a match. Post-game, think about adding in a protein and carbohydrate rich meal to help boost recovery and replenish energy levels.

An often overlooked aspect of nutrition is hydration. It is vital to ensure you are drinking lots of water the day before, during and post-match. If your body weight drops by 1% as a result of sweating, it can lead to reduced concentration and memory, and increased feelings of tension and anxiety (Ganio et al., 2011). If this goes a further 1%, visuomotor, psychomotor and general mental performance reduces (Szinnai, Schachinger, Arnaud, Linder & Keller, 2005). Try to utilise water rather than sports drinks to replace fluid lost through physical activity as these types of drinks can be of poor nutritional content.

If you are not giving your body enough rest, you are not optimally preparing yourself before physical activity. Poor sleep patterns have been shown to affect athletic performance, neurocognitive function and physical health (Simpson, Gibbs & Matheson, 2016). However, living in a busy world, sleep is often overlooked. The most recent consensus statement from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and Sleep Research Society states adults should be aiming for 7 or more hours per night, and young adults, over 9 hours per night (Watson et al., 2015). It is suggested, however, that athletes need considerably more than this to facilitate effective recovery (Jeffreys, 2005) and should be aiming for these targets at a minimum.
As a final word, we would like to wish everyone good luck this season. If you have a niggle, get it checked out to maximise your chances of staying on the field. Remember to have fun and play fair. 


Behm, D., Blazevich, A., Kay, A., & McHugh, M. (2016). Acute effects of muscle stretching on physical performance, range of motion, and injury incidence in healthy active individuals: a systematic review. Appl Physiol Nutr Metab41(1), 1-11.

Cohn, P. (1990). Preperformance Routines in Sport: Theoretical Support and Practical Applications. Sport Psychol4(3), 301-312.

Ganio, M., Armstrong, L., Casa, D., McDermott, B., Lee, E., & Yamamoto, L. et al. (2011). Mild dehydration impairs cognitive performance and mood of men. Br J Nutr106(10), 1535-1543.

Herbert, R., & Gabriel, M. (2002). Effects of stretching before and after exercising on muscle soreness and risk of injury: systematic review. BMJ325(7362), 468-468.

Herman, K., Barton, C., Malliaras, P., & Morrissey, D. (2012). The effectiveness of neuromuscular warm-up strategies, that require no additional equipment, for preventing lower limb injuries during sports participation: a systematic review. BMC Medicine10(1).

Jeffreys, I. (2005). A Multidimensional Approach to Enhancing Recovery. Strength Cond J27(5), 78-85.

Leppänen, M., Aaltonen, S., Parkkari, J., Heinonen, A., & Kujala, U. (2013). Interventions to Prevent Sports Related Injuries: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomised Controlled Trials. Sports Med44(4), 473-486.

Simpson, N., Gibbs, E., & Matheson, G. (2016). Optimizing sleep to maximize performance: implications and recommendations for elite athletes. Scand J Med Sci Sports27(3), 266-274.

Szinnai, G., Schachinger, H., Arnaud, M., Linder, L., & Keller, U. (2005). Effect of water deprivation on cognitive-motor performance in healthy men and women. Am J Physiol Regul Integr Comp Physiol289(1), R275-R280.

Thorborg, K., Krommes, K., Esteve, E., Clausen, M., Bartels, E., & Rathleff, M. (2017). Effect of specific exercise-based football injury prevention programmes on the overall injury rate in football: a systematic review and meta-analysis of the FIFA 11 and 11+ programmes. Br J Sports Med, 51(7), 562-571.

Watson, N., Badr, M., Belenky, G., Bliwise, D., Buxton, O., & Buysse, D. et al. (2015). Joint Consensus Statement of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and Sleep Research Society on the Recommended Amount of Sleep for a Healthy Adult: Methodology and Discussion. Sleep38(8), 1161-1183.



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