Paying the P.R.I.C.E: How to Build Soccer Longevity With Proper Recovery
Oct 25, 2023
What do Buffon, Pepe, Zlatan and King Kazu all have in common? Besides all being legends, they all share one trait—these powerhouses are,or were, playing soccer at the age of 40 or older. Not only that, they were or are still effective, despite being “up there”.
A few decades ago, an elite 40-something player was rarer than seeing a goalkeeper score a goal. Now it’s more common, largely due to their focus on recovery (and proper diet and training).
And while it’s crucial for older players to focus on recovery, younger players should also focus on it too. It can reverse some of the mileage they’ll acquire on the pitch. With that said, we’ll take a look at our version of the P.R.I.C.E recovery protocol, which typically stands for protection, rest, ice, compression, and elevation. We’ll examine how our version, which stands for percussion, rest, ice, compression, and exercise, reduces bodily wear-and-tear.
Percussion Therapy for Recovery
Percussion therapy is starting to get a lot of love from athletes, and for good reason. It’s not just because percussion guns look sleek and cool, or because the ads feature amusing images of people smile-crying as the guns tap on sore spots. It’s because research supports their capabilities.
One study published by NCBI found that percussive therapy improved acute and explosive muscle strength while reducing pain. Another study uncovered that percussion guns were the most effective method to increase range of motion (ROM) in the legs, compared to other therapies.
If this guy, who’s aged gracefully, uses percussion guns, you should give 'em’ a try too.
Percussion gun therapy works on multiple levels, with many of its benefits having profound short-term benefits. But they help for longevity too.
Benefits of regular use of percussion therapy
Basically, percussion guns target the sources of stiffness, soreness, and swelling you might have after a game, making them far less noticeable. And with better recovery, you’re less likely to get injuries, which means more time on the pitch in general.
It’s no wonder some of the biggest names use percussion guns, including the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Janine Beckie, Trent Alexander-Arnold, and Granit Xhaka.
So give this hand-chop-in-a-box a go. We carry our own percussion gun that delivers three adjustable speeds and three working modes for comfort and efficiency. After a game, fire it off for 1-2 minutes on your sore spots. You’ll notice a difference in the days afterward.
We’ve said this before and we’ll say it again—players need to be pushed to their limits, but never past it. Unfortunately, overexertion and excessive workloads is threatening to prematurely end the careers of soccer’s biggest names.
For example, Raphael Varane had to quit the French National Team at age 29, because of his heavy workload. Since the start of the 2018-19 season, he has appeared in over 250 matches. Up to 60% of the time, he played within five days of his previous game, which means he gets less rest than what FIFPRO recommends. Ever since he joined Manchester United in 2021, he’s missed over 30 matches due to injury, which is more than his previous record.
Virgil van Dijk also admitted he’s overworked.
“I played too many games and my body broke down,” he says. Alan Shearer bashed Van Dijk for his comments, but the Liverpool defender has played more minutes than almost ALL players in Europe. And he’s dealt with ACL and hamstring injuries too.
This is starting to affect amateur and youth players too. The combination of practices, games, and tournaments is leading players to exceed the recommended 18-20 hour per week maximum of training.
Tired football players are more likely to get hurt. And players who get hurt more often, are more likely to burnout and quit due to frustration or out of necessity.
So the advice here is simple—rest up! Don’t exceed the recommended training ceiling. You’ll avoid burning out in both the short and long run.
When it comes to temperature-based muscle recovery, there are two ends of the spectrum—hot and cold. They’re both beneficial when used at the right time. Heat is most effective immediately after an injury or intense training session, as it stimulates blood flow and delivers nutrients and oxygen to affected areas to improve muscle repair.
But cold therapy works better for muscle recovery in the hours after a game. It also better targets some of the stresses that can wear a player down over time.
Icing muscles after a game limits tissue damage, and that’s important because limiting tissue damage makes you less injury prone. It goes without saying that fewer injuries means less wear-and-tear on the body, which can mean a longer career overall.
You don’t need to take a full ice bath to get the benefits of cold therapy—an ice pack works too.
Also, ice appears to reduce inflammation far better than heat, which is also important because chronic inflammation can age a player faster, not to mention, increase their injury risk. So yes, there’s a reason to really dial in (or better put, dial down) the temperature for your post-game recovery.
And you don’t have to submerge yourself in a tub of ice water. An ice pack will do the job too—just place it over your sore areas and let its cooling mechanisms heal you.
We carry a line of ice packs, one specifically for the knees and elbows, and another you can use for your whole body. Best of all, our ice packs are also heat packs, so you can get the dual-healing action of hot and cold.
The healing partner of ice/heat therapy is compression therapy. What ice and heat can do, compression can do, and sometimes, better. It too increases blood flow and reduces inflammation. It’s also temperature regulating, delivering warmth to the muscles.
But compression does something special—it reduces muscle oscillation. Your muscles oscillate (or vibrate) whenever you run, jump, dive or execute any movement. They’re natural movements and even though they may not have a direct benefit, scientists think they might dissipate energy so the muscles absorb less impact force. However, too much oscillation creates micro-tears in muscle fibers, which lead to fatigue, soreness, and over time, injuries.
Compression reduces the muscle oscillations so you get fewer micro-tears. That means less soreness, faster recovery, and fewer injuries, which, by extension, keeps you on the pitch longer.
Compression tech works when you wear it during a game or practice, making it a more proactive form of recovery. And it’s available in various forms as well. For example, we carry compression gear in the form of socks, shorts and arm sleeves. They all help to reduce the micro vibrations that accumulate and wear your muscles down.
If you thought the “E” in this protocol was “elevation”—gotcha! In our recovery program, the “E” stands for exercise. Yes, it might seem confusing since we’re talking about recovery after all—why train more when you’re all trained out?
In this case, the exercises we’re talking about are cool down workouts. They’re an underrated aspect of an athlete’s arsenal, soccer players included. But they’re just as important as warmups, even more so for their positive effects on recovery.
Benefits of cool-down exercises for recovery
- Lactic acid removal—Cool down exercises speed up the removal of lactic acid, which if there’s an excess, causes soreness.
- Improved circulation—As we mentioned above, improved circulation delivers nutrient- and oxygen-rich blood to damaged muscles, helping them repair faster. Cool downs boost circulation.
- Reduction of muscle soreness—The reduction in lactic acid translates to less soreness, and that allows you to hit the pitch with more energy and power than if you’re sore.
- Muscle relaxation—Cool downs gently stretch the muscles, so they are more relaxed and flexible for future performances.
- Mental relaxation—Light exercise after intense training allows the body to transition more smoothly to a rested state. The mind responds to gentle shifts more favorably, making you feel more relaxed.
You can find tons of cool down routines for soccer, but some are universally seen as effective. They include light jogging, leg swings, arm circles, and hip and leg stretches.
The Cost of Soccer Longevity is Proper Recovery
A solid recovery program, like P.R.I.C.E, is an investment that can pay off in the form of a long career. And you don’t need to sign a multi-million dollar contract to invest in good recovery.
All the components of the P.R.I.C.E protocol are either free or generally cost-effective. And then there are other basics too, like proper hydration, diet, and in some cases, supplements, that are also free or low-cost. The true cost is effort and consistency.
Of course, there’s no such thing as beating Father Time in soccer. You’ll have to adjust your game when a certain pace or playing style doesn’t suit you anymore. Just look at how Messi spends a lot of time walking the field to position himself now. But even then, with modern recovery protocols, you can slow down wear and tear so you don’t have to hang up your boots prematurely.
Looking to beat soreness and injuries more effectively? Take a look at our recovery tools to help you bounce back faster and spend more time on the pitch!