You probably work out regularly to get yourself in peak physical condition for game day. Paradoxically, those workouts could leave you sore on the day of the game. Too little exercise before a competition could also cause soreness during the game as unprepared muscles strain to perform. Strike a balance between vigorous exercise and sufficient rest before the big game to alleviate muscle soreness.
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Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness
Delayed onset muscle soreness, or DOMS, occurs well after an exercise session. DOMS reaches its peak two days after a strenuous workout, so you can use this predictability to plan your weekly workouts around game days. For Friday night games, for example, schedule your most strenuous workout early in the week and confine Wednesday's workouts to relatively light leg exercise that you're accustomed to doing. Avoid adding new leg exercises to your repertoire within that two-day window before the game.
Varying your workout routine throughout the week can help prevent soreness on game day. Work your upper body on one day, then focus on your lower body to give each major muscle group a day of recuperation between workouts. The type of muscle movement also contributes to muscle soreness. A study published in the "Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research" in 2003, describes eccentric muscle contractions -- tension of an elongated muscle as opposed to concentric contractions that cause the muscle to shorten -- as being the most likely to produce DOMS. Limiting workouts that focus on eccentric muscle activity to well in advance of game day could help keep your legs from feeling sore and affecting your performance.
Although too much exercise before game day can make your legs sore during the big game, too little may leave you unprepared for the event. Strong, well-developed muscles protect your joints from injury and build sturdier bones, so it's important to keep up with workouts for safety reasons as well as to enhance your performance on the field. When your legs are strong enough to do everything you ask of them, you're also less likely to suffer muscle strains that lead to aching legs after the game. Work with your coach or trainer to develop an exercise regimen that builds sufficient strength and flexibility to let you play your best.
Preventing leg soreness is preferable to alleviating it, but sometimes your workout leaves you aching even when you're careful. On the day of the game, gentle stretching helps ease the discomfort of any residual muscle soreness. Speak to your coach or trainer about over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications. The "Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research" notes that anti-inflammatory medications had the best results with alleviating DOMS. If you experience sharp or debilitating leg pain rather than soreness, seek medical help immediately.