For this week’s blog, I had the opportunity to sit down with Triathlete and Doctor of Physiotherapy Student, Ryley Pasquali. Throughout this blog we discuss all things football from the perspective of somebody who understands how the body functions and how to continually improve performance. Ryley brings a wealth of knowledge and experience giving another perspective and opinion here at OnTheBallBlog. For all aspiring footballers out there, this is real insight into becoming an elite athlete.
Tell us a bit about yourself; your qualifications, experiences in the industry and current position in a football club/practice.
I am a current Doctor of Physiotherapy Student (the University of Melbourne) in my second of three years. I have previously completed a Bachelor of Science (the University of Melbourne) with a major in Human Structure and Function (Anatomy) and minors in Human Physiology, Neuroscience and Pharmacology. I have previously played football at a national level as a junior in U/13-14s for Victoria. Most recently I have played senior football for Wangaratta and Altona City from age 14-20. At the age of 20 I decided to challenge myself by competing in a short triathlon. Funnily enough I ended up winning my age group on that day and have been hooked ever since!
Not long after I linked up with a coach named Jamie Edwards at JET Coaching. For the past three years I have competed in sprint, Olympic and half ironman distance triathlons and have qualified for the 2020 (now 2022 thanks Rona!) World Championships for the half ironman distance.
I have a keen interest in high level athletic performance from both an injury prevention and strength and conditioning/high performance views. I currently work as a sports trainer under a great physiotherapist at Green Gully Soccer Club. Through my background in anatomy and physiology, my current studies in physiotherapy, experience in high level sport and current job I have been able to extend my knowledge of our capacity as humans and athletes to reach our full potential. I strongly believe that through the lens of athletic potential we can achieve our human potential. I endeavour to one day work in elite sport and combine my passions for both physiotherapy and conditioning to gain experience in clinical sports medicine and performance.
Why is injury prevention so important for professional football players, and how does it benefit their game?
Studies have shown that injury prevention for sports such as soccer can literally be anything, stretching has been one of the only methods known not to have a preventative effect even though subjectively and in the context of some injuries it is super important.
So, I say, find what works for you! Unfortunately, in high level sport most athletes are obliged to complete similar programs, and these typically involve strength, balance, coordination etc. I do believe that stronger athletes are more RESILIENT athletes and so the value of strength training cannot be underestimated. There is an important balance to strike between doing extra and being able to recover properly.
The injury prevention should be complementary to your team training or sport specific training whereby it both prevents injury and improves performance. SPECIFICITY and TIMING are two important concepts, for example trying to improve a 1RM squat mid-season is not the best idea and riding an exercise bike won’t make you jump higher! In saying this, VARIABILITY in training can also provide extra stimulus for cardiovascular and neuromuscular adaptation to make you a more well-rounded and resilient athlete. Better resilience in the context of injury reduces the likelihood of being injured. Injury prevention also includes RECOVERY and load management.
For most athletes the process begins in a pre-season build which focuses on improvement of physical conditioning. During the season a maintenance phase is usually appropriate as most physical/physiological adaptation comes from the performance on match day itself. Forms of injury prevention I commonly used as an endurance athlete are – weight training, Pilates, yoga, cross training into other disciplines.
What are the three most important factors to recovering after a football match?
In the 21st century we have so many gadgets and incredible technology, which may make us ‘feel’ better. But the key to maximising full recovery comes when our body rests, repairs and replenishes. A good motto to train and play by is that we can only improve from performances for which our body can actually recover and regenerate. If there’s one thing to take away from this, it’s to prioritise sleep.
So, do what you can to ensure you downregulate and switch off from excessive stimulation, don’t eat or drink excessively prior to bedtime, stay away from alcohol particularly after intense performances. Sleep should be a priority every day for athletes, not just the night after a game. This ensures we are fresh both physically and psychologically. Remember, our brain controls our legs, so if the brain and neural pathways are not recovered then how can you expect your legs to be performing at their peak.
2. NUTRITION AND HYDRATION
To adapt, recover and reenergise, our body needs fuel. In order to prevent excessive catabolic metabolism through upregulation of cortisol and adrenaline post-match, a good serving of high-quality protein either from a recovery shake or light meal is essential. This helps to facilitate muscle and physiological recovery from the minute you step off the pitch. Aim for a small serving of protein and carbohydrates within the 30 minutes to 1 hour post-match and then a light meal with healthy proportions of carbohydrates, fats and proteins that is low in sugar can follow in the 1-3 hours post-match. Don’t forget to replace your fluids and electrolytes using a simple guide of 1.5-2L for every 1kg of body weight lost in a match. This does not need to be taken in immediately, but across several hours post-match.
Personally, I opt for 1-2 bottles of water with 1x sugar free electrolyte tablet in the hour post event/training, a banana or piece of toast with peanut butter/avocado within the hour post training. Then 1-2 hours later I’ll have a main meal which includes 1-2 handfuls of vegetables, a palm size worth of carbohydrates and a palm size worth of protein. This is very personal and requires a lot of trial and error or consultation with a dietician or coach. Tips are to stay away from high GI foods like lollies and sweets to prevent elevated blood sugar and cortisol into the night which may affect sleep quality.
3. ACTIVE RECOVERY
This entails both an active recovery post game involving 10-15 minutes of light exercise and drills similar to a warm up at lower intensity. This assists the removal of metabolic by products and helps to settle your cardiovascular and neurological systems. This is particularly important when playing at night to help ensure that your sleep is high quality and your adrenaline and cortisol levels drop between finishing the game and sleep. The morning or 24 hours after can include light exercise like yoga, pilates, stretching, walking, pool running, swimming or cycling. Pick something that you enjoy and that makes you feel good, something low stress and low load, 20-30 minutes is all that is needed. You should always do this with the aim of feeling better than before you started the recovery.
Passive recovery modalities like ice/sea baths, contrast bathing, compression boots, sauna, massage guns and foam rollers are also great however are largely passive. If you have access so some or all of these options, then absolutely make the most of them. Try not to focus on touching too many specific areas of your body but rather ensure that it is a relaxing and soothing recovery protocol leaving you fresher at the end compared to when you started.
What should athletes eat before a game to maximise energy, and after a game to boost recovery?
This is tricky as its very individual. Generally last large meal should be 3-4 hours prior to the match. With a final snack 90 minutes to 1 hour prior to kick off. Many people overdo it, but this can cause reduction in blood flow to your skeletal muscles when you need it most as the gastrointestinal system will be working harder and thus be taking a greater proportion of your cardiac output. Generally speaking, something which has a Low Glycaemic Index (Low GI) so as to not spike your blood sugar before causing a crash should be included in the 1 hour to 90 minutes prior. Favourites for me are bananas, museli bar (low sugar), porridge or oats/museli which is low in sugar.
In the meal prior this can be personal preference but again something light and easily digestible, a sandwich, stir fry with brown rice. Don’t overdo it with the volume of food either. You’ve already stockpiled muscle glycogen in the muscles in the days leading up to the game and you have enough reserves for 2 hours of pretty intense exercise stored away.
As a Physiotherapy student, what do you believe players should focus on away from the field?
Something other than football! If it is football related, then make sure it’s something you enjoy. Find a part time job, study a University degree part time, learn to play an instrument, volunteer, focus on building your professional skills which will be important after you’ve retired. Footballers are lucky to have 5 year let alone 10-year career. I believe that finding hobbies and talents outside of football or any sport will go a long way in helping to achieve success in the sport itself. The skills I have learned through part time work, education and coaching has helped me to develop athletic intelligence and also perspective on life in general. Mental health is a huge part of success as well and the examples above also go a long way in keeping you psychologically fit as well.
Success is not necessarily defined by trophies or results and how you define success will be different to how others define success.
So, work towards something which will help you be successful regardless of the results on the pitch. For me, that is studying physiotherapy and treating patients. There is no better feeling than being able to discharge a patient from the hospital or help an athlete return to the field of play. For a lot of footballers, coaching kids or becoming a mentor can be a great way to give back and contribute to the progression of others whilst still keeping your goals focused. Never underestimate the power of socialisation, sometimes we can be hell bent on winning and football but miss out on invaluable time with family and friends. Training upwards of 12-15 hours per week I know a lot about this! So, stay busy but get your priorities right. Set some short- and long-term goals for yourself, plan out your week on a Sunday evening and set aside time for both yourself, family, friends and football.
In terms of football related things, you can do away from the pitch:
- Consult with a sports psychologist, motivational coach or mentor.
- Consult with a dietician for general advice about fuelling and hydration within and outside of sport.
- See a physiotherapist or qualified strength and conditioning coach for management of your training balance.
Being a high-performance athlete yourself, what do you believe is something aspiring footballers/ athletes should focus on perfecting?
I have a few key words which resonate and motivate me in my daily activities and also help me set my long-term goals;
SIMPLICITY facilitates CONSISTENCY
CONSISTENCY leads to FAMILIARITY
FAMILIARITY leads to EXECUTION
CONSISTENT EXECUTION creates a RESILIENT athlete.
RESILIENCE facilitates IMPROVEMENT.
For Life and in Sport.
Stick to the basics, don’t overdo it, be consistently good. Because CONSISTENTLY GOOD beats OCCASIONALLY GREAT every time.
Big thanks to my coach Jamie Edwards for instilling these words of wisdom in my approach to personal, professional and sporting life.
Your page, SwimBikeRunRehab, is an incredible resource for sportspersons from any background. Where did the inspiration for this page come from?
I created the @swimbikerunrehab page for education about injury specific rehabilitation and prevention in sport. I would love for more people to jump on board this page. I am attempting to educate on common sporting injuries and injury prevention methods in the hope to increase athletic intelligence across all sports. There is a lot of mumbo jumbo and false advice out there, so I am trying to stick to the basics, use evidence-based management and educate athletes on how to manage their bodies.
And there you have it. I hope you enjoyed this blog with Ryley Pasquali. To get in touch with Ryley for personal enquiries or general questions be sure to hit up his Instagram Page @swimbikerunrehab as well as all of his social media accounts tagged below.
Facebook – Ryley Pasquali
Instagram – @ryleypas
LinkedIn – Ryley Pasquali
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