GAA Return to Play PT.2
RECOVERY IS KEY
Your body only builds muscle on rest days and in terms of Gaelic footballers – particularly those who have been on the treatment table for an extended period of time, recovering properly before the next session is even more important says Frank.
“If you have more time to recover from a long-term injury and you decide to do the same amount of work you could do in two weeks but spread it over four weeks, that’s fine – as long as you are continually progressive in what you do,” he advises.
“Building up recovery mechanisms are almost important as getting to that high level of fitness as well. If you get to a high level but you’re compensating a bit and then you go into the next session with muscles that are ever so slightly fatigued, they will shorten. You’ll get through the session, but you don’t know that over a period of a couple of weeks, the body is actually struggling to recover back to an optimal condition to actually go again for the next session.
“Then, all of a sudden, not necessarily the injury you had in the first place, something else like a minor soft tissue injury has crept in based on an accumulation of training through too much fatigue from not recovering fully,” Frank warned.
Everyone has seen the increase in size of the modern day GAA footballer, with some not far off looking like they would be more at home on the rugby pitch. While the aesthetics might be the motivating factor for many these days, it can come at the detriment of even more important muscle groups that are vital for the actual matches.
“Two of the big problem areas that have crept into the GAA in the last five years that I’ve been dealing a lot more with are shoulder and hip surgeries Shoulder-wise, a lot of the preparation is that they build up certain muscle groups in the anterior shoulders, so pecs and anterior deltoids with biceps. They are very much in control of the anterior shoulder, but a lot of the time posterior stuff gets neglected.
“The body is split up into two types of muscles groups – mobilisers and stabilisers. The brain operates those muscles differently. Stabilisers know when to brace and hold firm and are a slightly longer-firing muscle, whereas the mobilisers are more quick firing. If you train your mobilisers to be more prevalent than your stabilisers, you’re creating an imbalance in terms of the strength and type of muscle that the brain is used to sending the signals to around those joints,” he says, adding that no manager or coach worth their salt should be even contemplating testing the fitness levels of their players until almost a month of training has taken place.
“Players can come badly prepared in terms of the focus on one particular aspect of the game. Managers will go gung-ho in terms of trying to get the players fit quickly and a lot of them will do fitness tests very early on. You should be doing the opposite,” he says.
“A fitness test is a maximal exertion where you’re asking players to push themselves to the maximum. Really, there should be a build-up period before a fitness test. A three or four-week period in and then take a measurement of where they’re at, rather than asking players for a maximal effort straight away from day one.”