PARAMUS, N.J. -- Whether you’re an elite college basketball player gunning for a trip to the NCAA tournament or someone who just hits the local court for fun, how you finish a game is as important for your body as how you prep.
Immediately after finishing a game, it is important to gradually bring down your heart rate. Sudden stops can lead to blood pooling in your extremities and cause dizziness. For basketball players, walking or shooting free throws for a few minutes lets your body re-adjust to its normal state.
The cool down phase is also the optimal time for stretching. After exercise, your muscles will be warm and more elastic, allowing you to get the most benefit in flexibility from stretching. You want to stretch all of the major muscle groups, holding each stretch for 25-30 seconds.
Wearing a compression garment after activity can provide benefit to your recovering muscles. Watching a college or professional game, nearly every player today wears a compression sleeve of sorts. While studies have not shown significant benefit for use during activity, compression garments have been shown to be effective during recovery, limiting the damaging markers of muscle injury.
One of the most commonly used recovery aids to rejuvenate muscles is massage, although studies are inconclusive as to it overall benefits. It is important to note that massage can also have a negative effect on muscle strength immediately after it is performed, and should be reserved for the cool down phase. Foam rolling has been shown to decrease delayed muscle soreness and possibly improve performance, and can also be used as a recovery aid.
Proper nutrition is extremely important for the recovery of muscle after exercise. Two important macronutrients for muscle recovery are carbohydrates and protein. The immediate post-exercise period is the time the body responds best to refueling. Muscle provides important energy to the body during exercise that needs to be replenished. Muscle becomes damaged during exercise and consuming protein after exercise will provide the necessary building blocks to repair, remodel and build new muscle.
Dr. David A. Wang is a sports medicine physician at Hospital for Special Surgery specializing in the treatment of acute and overuse injuries. His main clinical and research interests are overuse injuries, concussions, viscosupplementation injections, and the pre-participation physical exam. As a former collegiate baseball player, he also has a special interest in the care of baseball players. He practices at both the HSS Outpatient Center in Paramus and the hospital’s main campus in New York.